Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sequester Numbers Put in Perspective (Update)

Michael Ramirez, perhaps my favorite political cartoonist, provides a service to the public by his portrayal of an understandable rendition of the Sequester cuts (click to enlarge):
In true demagogic fashion, though, Obama and his minions are portraying the cuts as the next 'end of the world as we know it', never mind that the Sequester was the bright idea of Obama to begin with. 

I can't keep up with all of the various extinction events that have been threatened in my lifetime, from Y2K to Global Cooling to Global Warming to the Mayan calendar (though that did correspond to Obama's re-election).
This is in keeping with the standard government bureaucratic attitude, as exemplified by the most popularly well-known example of California after passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 (the Taxpayers' Revolt) which forced the California state government to cut back on property taxes.  The state bureaucracy initially responded by cutting police, fire, libraries, schools, &c as a retaliation to the voters, instead of attacking waste. 

This is also popularly known among political economists (and cynics) as the Washington Monument Ploy (a jocular reference to the old football Statue of Liberty Play), after the director of the National Park Service in 1969 shut down said monument and the Grand Canyon for several days a week in order to extort funding.  It worked, though the director soon elected to retire – considered a partial victory in some circles as a condign punishment, but the director had likely figured to retire at that point anyway, which gave him the advantage of John Bunyan's dictum of "A man who is down need fear no fall."

Update:  The following morning, and Karl Rove has cited figures provided by the CBO that pegs last year's fiscal budget at $3.538 trillion, but the projected budget for this fiscal year, after the Sequestration, is $3.553 trillion, thus showing again that there is no actual cut in spending, only a decrease in the amount that projected federal spending is due to increase.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Maker's Mark Plays It Well

And now for something completely different for this web log, but in keeping with my interests.

Maker's MarkTM, a successful brand of Kentucky bourbon, hit the news in a big way yesterday with the announcement that it had made a mistake.  (The company is one of several owned by Jim Beam through its Beam Inc and Beam Global that includes Booker's (one of my particular favorites) and Knob Creek bourbon; Laphroaig and Ardmore single malt Scotch whisky; Connemara Irish whiskey; Canadian Club; Sauza and Hornitos tequila; Courvoisier brandy (another favorite in its Napoleon form); Gilbey's vodka; and so on to many others.)

Its self-inflicted wound was announced last week by Rob Samuels, COO of Maker's Mark, along with his father Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr, with the news that due to increased demand, the distiller had discovered a way to reduce the alcohol content (ABV – alcohol by volume) from its standard 45% to 42% in order to increase its product availability, but in a way that did not change the taste, certified by blind tests by professionals and a committee of loyal customers.  The social media response was immediate and overwhelming: the fan base cried foul and demanded no change to the original.  The result announced yesterday was that the company had heard its customer base loud and clear, and so was returning to its original formula.  The news industry has begun to pronounce this as a marketing fiasco that will rank with New Coke.

I don't agree.

The money phrase of the first announcement was: 
Lately we've been hearing from many of you that you've been having difficulty finding Maker's Mark in your local stores.  Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we're running very low on supply.  We never imagined that the entire bourbon category would explode as it has over the few years, nor that demand for Maker's Mark would grow even faster. 
With the retraction that came within a few days, the Samuels announced that: 
When we got the first comments, we thought that our ambassadors had missed the point, since we had worked so hard to make sure that there was no change in taste whatsoever.  But we found out very quickly that they don't want any change at all, don't want anyone messing with their whiskey.  It's amazing.  They'd rather have to go from store to store to seek it out and deal with any shortages than to have us make any changes. [all emphases mine]

It has been said by any number of people that there is no such thing as bad publicity, attributed to Madonna and Jean Harlow, but most likely it was Brendan Behan ("… except your own obituary").  If all publicity is good, then the Samuels generated their own Br'er Rabbit/briar patch-type of 'dilemma' with similar results, along with a full-blown publicity campaign to accompany it, as if by magic.

Nothing increases demand like fear of a shortage, a threat to supply.  Just look at the gas crises of the 1970s, or the current run on firearms and ammunition as a result of the current threats to the Second Amendment, just like the previous ones.  The Samuels have generated some free publicity with (1) an announcement of increased demand, (2) the concomitant drop in supply, (3) a further increase in demand because of the threat of the end of the desired product (as we know it), and (4) a further decrease of supply that will be theoretically perpetual because the customers will "deal with it", all the while in the midst of an increase in demand of "the entire bourbon industry".  Now if they were to bottle the immediately rare 86 proof experiment in the midst of the run on the standard 90 proof, what price would each of those bottles fetch?

Well played, gentlemen.  Well played.

Continuing Lack of US Leadership in "Arab Spring", Christian Persecution in the Middle East

Much of my adult life was governed by Murphy's Laws of Combat (originating, as they must have, from one who read Rudyard Kipling).  While admittedly whimsical, many had the hard edge of reality (e.g., "Tracers work both ways."). 

One of the more cogent rules was: "The Regimental staff's phonebook-sized operations plan never survives the first five minutes of contact with the enemy."  The same can be applied to modern international strategy, but its application has been applied selectively.  The Democrats and the MSM (but I repeat myself) were hysterical about the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Iraqi armed forces in 2003 ("mission accomplished" for phase 1 of the conflict, in that we were no longer engaging Iraqi tank brigades on line), claiming that the Bush administration had no plans for that event (see above rule).  An example of their extended pique was the great Iraqi National Museum looting hoax. 

But while no one in the Bush administration ever claimed that the aftermath of the Iraq War would be simple or easy (or without a plan, however tenuous), the Obama administration, in contrast, has pumped sweetness and light into the notion of the "Arab Spring", with the idea that they were actually able to apply the goodness of Democracy to the foreign culture of the Middle East.  They ignored the reality that Democracy as a concept is value neutral, dependant on the culture that attempts to apply it.  At the risk of violating Godwin's Law (it's not; a fact overcomes a simple strained comparison), Hitler came to power in a democratic election, and more recently the Clinton administration swooned at "free and fair elections" in the former Soviet Union which has led to the present morass of our "reset" with the Russian oligarchy. 

But as for Obama's "lead from behind" strategy (their word, not mine) in the case of liberating Libya from the grip of the bloody loon Qaddafi, we were left with (that's right)  no plan whatsoever as to how to influence events in the country that rivals only Somalia in its lack of governmental order.

Hillary's theatrics successfully deflected (for the Congress) the question of four dead Americans and the lack of response from the administration 

It is becoming increasingly obvious, from an administration that is selectively and stridently "open and transparent" about the bin Laden raid, that the subject of the Benghazi debacle is closed, and we should just move on.  As for the four dead American staff, Hillary Clinton declared in a snit "What difference does it make?"  Obama had already made up his mind on the subject early on, as by process of elimination due to lack of administration cooperation, we are left with the very likely conclusion that Obama was more focused on a Las Vegas fundraiser than he was on the siege of the Libyan Consulate.

Two Christians dead in bombed church in Dafniya/Misrata (The Times)

A recent example of how our best interests are evaporating in Libya is the arrest of four Christian missionaries – a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African and an Egyptian – on a charge of proselytizing, which can carry the penalty of death.  While the law extends back into the Qaddafi regime, this is the first such prosecution of the law since its downfall.  The arresting agents come from Preventive Security, "a unit created from several rebel formations during the 2011 uprising".  The US embassy in Tripoli has been silent on this story.

The left-wing Guardian quotes Bilal Bettamer, a "Benghazi lawyer and human rights activist" about how Libya is a "wholly Muslim country and Christians should not be trying to spread their faith", to wit: "It is disrespectful.  If we had Christianity we could have dialogue, but you just can't spread Christianity.  The maximum penalty is the death penalty.  It's a dangerous thing to do." 

This is what passes for a "human rights activist"? 

And while on the subject of left-wing sources, we have the Huffington Post, which reports that "… churches in the country, of which there are five in Tripoli alone, have rarely been attacked or Christians targeted, unlike in Egypt or Tunisia."  Yet within the same breath: "A church bombing in December killed two people in the Mediterranean town of Dafniya . . . . Not a day goes by without tombs being vandalised."  (Oh, well, other than that …) 

CBN reports that prior to the fall of Qaddafi there were some 100,000 Christians, but "now only a few thousand remain", which echoes the flood of Christian Coptic refugees fleeing Egypt.

Late last year, a Greek Coptic priest was shot in Tripoli and his church ransacked and burned shortly thereafter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was run out of the country after attacks on its offices because of the perception that it is a Christian organization.

This persecution of Christians is widespread in the Middle East and is gaining momentum, seeing hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria and Egypt.  Efforts to convince Obama to intervene in the slaughter in Syria, even by members of his own cabinet, have been fruitless, likely blocked by his mentor Valerie Jarrett.  The MSM continues to give a pass to Obama as he continues to ignore the plight of the Christians.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ted Cruz on Chuck Hagel: 'Morning Joe' Gets the Vapors, and the Limits of Military Recognition

There are currently a variety of spectator sports in Washington DC (in the Pacific Northwest out here, one must always add the 'DC' for clarity, as opposed to those who believe that anything between the Acela Corridor and Hollywood is a vast wasteland).  Those most prominent are the Senate confirmation hearings for Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along with those of John Brennan for CIA Director (wherein the Code Pink crowd has been less than cooperative in the process of fulfilling the wishes of their Dear Leader). 

For former Senator Hagel, it has not been smooth sailing to say the least.  Despite his previous party affiliation of Republican, that corner has provided scant support, and one of his more pointed critics has been the new Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, with full display of his prosecutorial talents honed as the most experienced Solicitor General in the history of Texas.  Lest one garner too much sympathy for the man on the stand, it is hard for even his top supporters to deny that Hagel's testimony was embarrassingly inept – but they do, with a well-practiced straight face. 
Hagel and Cruz (Salon)

The peanut gallery that is the Morning Joe [Scarborough] Show on MSNBC (in case you missed it, and considering the size of its audience you likely did) were shocked – shocked – by the comment from Senator Cruz about how the Iranian regime had endorsed Hagel's nomination "formally and publicly".  What followed was a synergism of increasing hyperbole (ably assisted by a bait and switch reference to remarks by Senator Inhofe, not Cruz) which amply demonstrated Mark Twain's observation that an amplified use of adjectives merely lessens whatever argument there may be.  ("When you catch an adjective, kill it.")  The panel begins its remarks in high gear, then tut-tuts and harrumphs its way around the table, increasing in centrifugal indignation.
Outrageous … over the line … grotesque … impugn … tea party … flummoxed … far right… outrageous … nasty … tea party … over the line … impugn … insulting … very far right … berating … disturbing … hard core tea party … 
It was like a scene from Macbeth, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", and I am tempted to use its previous line.  What wrapped it up in a neat little bow was the splenetic little man at the end, sputtering a challenge to Senator Cruz to have the "courage" to ask Senator Hagel about the day he "got the Bronze Star".  "Okay, Ted.  Line that one up, Baby!"  Joe agrees about the Bronze Star, then says that Cruz is accusing Hagel of being a traitor ("… in effect", perhaps realizing how far over the top he has gone). 

Before one gets spun up in these tirades, perhaps it would serve to know what one is talking about.  The height of their dudgeon is lessened somewhat by the fact that Chuck Hagel never received a Bronze Star for his service in Viet Nam.  (This is not to say that he didn't earn one, but that is an entirely different topic.)  But more on that in a moment. 

This bubbling frenzy of invective fails to take into account Cruz' entire body of work on the committee on the subject of Hagel's background.  For that matter, they neglect to mention (nor will MSNBC leap to remind you) that the same Senator McCain, who is quoted in opposition to Senator Inhofe's remark, was blistering in his demand that Hagel explain his statement that the Iraq surge was the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Viet Nam", with Hagel repeatedly stumbling in his attempt to evade the answer.  As for Cruz, he introduces his qualms about the sincerity of Hagel's foreign policy stances:
As a two-term senator and active participant in foreign policy discussions, Hagel repeatedly declined to support measures to crack down on state sponsors of terrorism, belittled the notion of using any means to prevent a nuclear Iran, advised US leaders to engage in direct negotiations with rogue nations and hostile terrorist groups, and expressed remarkable antagonism towards the longstanding US alliance with Israel.  Since Hagel has been nominated to become Defense secretary, however, he's disavowed each one of these positions. . . .
Of course, anyone can change their mind on one particular issue; reasonable people do that all the time.   However, when a nominee tries to disavow his past positions on virtually every foreign policy issue, all at the same time, it raises serious questions. 
Cruz continues with some damning specifics, including Hagel's three votes against economic sanctions for Iran; his vote against naming the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, purveyor of weapons that have killed hundreds of American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a terrorist group; his stated resistance to a military option to stop a nuclear-armed Iran; his refusal to recognize Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations; and his public criticism on several occasions about our alliance with Israel. 

But perhaps the moment that was most disconcerting to Hagel was when Cruz played a clip from an interview that Hagel gave to Al Jazeera television in 2009.  Some internet sites have copied a portion of the interview but it is truncated, cut immediately after the specific part, which always gives me pause, whether the source is from the Left or Right, with a nagging doubt about politically-motivated editing.  I have sought out and included, then, the entire first part of the interview so that the exchange can be seen in its entirety.

The clip that Cruz played before the committee hearing starts at about 8:47, in which Hagel agreed with a viewer who asked about the possibility of world disarmament "when the image of the US is that of the world's bully?"  Hagel's reply is "Well, her observation is a good one and it's relevant.  'Yes' to her question. . . .", before sliding off to a paragraph of praise for Obama and Hillary Clinton working with the Russians on the disarmament issue.  The interviewer, perhaps not believing his good luck with such a reply, follows up at about 10:01 when he states (not asks) that "Well, I mean, that brings us to the new [Obama] administration that is here in Washington.  I think that perception of the United States being the bully in the world has come largely from what the previous [Bush] administration has done."  So much for objective journalism, but this provides a second chance for Hagel to state his view, or to correct that of the interviewer, of the image of the United States as the world's "bully".  Hagel's reply: "Oh, I think that's right."  He then hedges a bit about our "seventh or eighth year of two long wars" being not entirely America's fault, but the "last administration misplayed a lot of the great goodwill that redounded" to the US after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.  It doesn't really matter which administration he is criticizing, but here is a representative of the US government publicly denouncing his own country on a foreign (one might say enemy) network.  Cruz nailed him on that, and Hagel's clumsy attempt to move on from it was a nadir of his inept testimony.

Now to the question about how Hagel's service as a soldier in Viet Nam somehow shields him from criticism.  There is no doubt (as there is with John Kerry) that Hagel served well and honorably.  Curiously, due to an Army clerical screw-up, he fought alongside his brother (in the 9th Infantry Division).  On at least two occasions they saved each other's life, and Hagel was awarded two Purple Hearts for serious wounds – burns and life-threatening shrapnel.  He also received an Army Commendation Medal for saving a wounded crewman of a burning APC while under fire, from whence he received his burns.  (The medal seems thin gruel to me for such an act of heroism, but the military decorations system is, again, another subject entirely.)  I salute him, as should we all, for his steadfast and courageous service, but the question as raised by the MSNBC panel among others is how should that service be rewarded? 

There are those who wish to cash in on the glory, sometimes inflated, of one's military recognition.  (I hasten to note that Hagel himself is not one of these.)  A glowing recent example is John Kerry and the Swift Boat controversy, but one of the more egregious cases was Lyndon Johnson's stupefying Silver Star for sitting still in the back of an airplane when a Japanese fighter made a pass, while he "evidenced marked coolness".  I grew up in the 1950s and one of the pet peeves of my father (God rest his soul) that I heard was any politician who advertized that he was veteran.  My father would grumble that with 16 million Americans in uniform during World War II, with a draft, it was an unremarkable claim.  Since that time, for a variety of reasons, it has taken on a far more significant meaning, but the underlying principle remains the same.  Military service teaches (though there are too many exceptions) that one should advance by demonstrated merit.  Whatever recognition one receives through a commendation is reward enough, but more important is the old-fashion notion that a good job is its own reward. 

But Morning Joe and Hagel's other supporters keep pushing the notion that his military service is a distinct qualification in and of itself.  I certainly don't understand it that way, and neither does Hagel, I suspect.  There are any number of veterans with whom I would love to sit down and share a beer, and Chuck Hagel is certainly among them, but that doesn't mean that he or anyone else is necessarily qualified, politically or otherwise, for "a position of high trust and responsibility" because of service or sacrifice.  The office of Secretary of Defense, or any other position for that matter, is not a consolation prize. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chris Dorner: The Press And Police Panic; He's Not James Bond

The MSM has leapt on the story of the former Los Angeles police officer who has gone on a rampage after being dismissed from the force for cause.  Christopher Dorner shot three police officers, one fatally, and is also charged with killing an engaged couple, the woman being the daughter of one of his declared targets for revenge.  Dorner has published a rambling 11,400-word manifesto which makes some interesting reading from the 'morbid fascination' viewpoint.  Should one wish to surveil that topic, I would suggest dedicating some time to reading the whole ramble – some press sources have edited out portions for the purported sake of brevity, but curiously these are portions that are injurious to the standard meme of a crazed, right-wing, military veteran on some sort of post-traumatic rampage, backed up by an arsenal of ninja training that he received from the military and police.

While there is no doubt that he is crazed and has been on a rampage, his political leanings are uncomfortably (for them) nowhere near right-wing.  In fact, he has praise for Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Diane Feinstein, Ellen DeGeneres, and Piers Morgan, among others, and praises Michelle Obama's new bangs.  (He does, however, put in a kind word for former President Bush the elder.  If one believes that that puts him in the crazed right-wing category, then this topic is a lost cause.) 

Further, he is staunchly in favor of gun control (except, of course, for himself) and claims to be a victim of and a whistle-blower about racial discrimination.  (Left uncommented upon by the press is that his female murder victim, and by extension her targeted father, is Asian.)  Just a few observations about his manifesto claims, which extend back to his experiences in high school: all white police officers are racists; all non-white police supervisors (and lesbians) are contributing to racism by making white officers hate them; a major motivating factor for being a cop is to oppress minorities; ad molestus. 

I wrote previously of the police over-reaction to his threats, in two separate shootings of suspects who came nowhere close to resembling Dorner.  The police seem to be reacting as if the long list of Dorner's alleged skills of dark martial arts, a combination of Rambo and Jack Bauer, is something other than the ranting of a malignant narcissistic paranoiac.  As for whether he "snapped" or is the victim of this epidemic of PTSD that is being extended to practically anyone who wants to claim it (as opposed to legitimate cases), I suggest that it took some time to compose and write out such a lengthy screed.  The LA Police Chief didn't help matters when he declared, "He knows what he's doing; we trained him.  He was also a member of the armed forces.  It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved."

I cannot speak with any real authority as to his police training, but I do note that after his standard police academy curriculum, he worked for only four months with the LAPD before a deployment in the Naval Reserves.  Upon his return to the force, he was focused on avoiding standard patrol duties until he received "re-integration training", at one point breaking into tears.  His field training officer repeatedly counseled him that if he didn't improve, she would write him an unsatisfactory evaluation and ask to terminate him.  When she finally did, he in turn filed a complaint with Internal Affairs that she had kicked and injured a mentally ill man during an arrest.  The police review of the complaint found the allegation untrue and dismissed him for the false official statement, flavored I'm sure by his unsatisfactory job performance. 

I'm not exactly sure where during that time frame that he was trained to the extent that he was "dangerous", over and above however dangerous anyone with a bare modicum of training would be. 

But as to his military training and record, I can add some sanity to the claims bandied about the airwaves about the advanced skills that he is supposed to have, taken at face value by journalists who have little idea of his true nature and background.  Just this morning, listening to Fox News on XM on the way to work, I heard a commentator speak of his underwater demolitions training.  Other sources have spoken of his flight training, in reference to a postulated threat of a hijacking attempt.  Others speak darkly of his intelligence training and deployment to combat areas.  The list goes on, but allow me to put a damper on this hysteria.


Dorner had been a Lieutenant in the US Naval Reserve up until the beginning of this month, and assigned to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR).  The only obligation of a member of the IRR is to retain a seabag full of uniforms on the off chance that he could be recalled to active duty.  His designator (similar to a military occupational specialty – MOS – in the Army or Marines) was 1305, meaning that he was in the Reserves ('5') in the capacity of an officer in the aviation community who had no specific skill.  Sure enough, he had entered the Navy to attend flight training, but he washed out.  The extent to which he has any flight skills at all is debatable, depending on what point in his training he was dropped, but the Navy clearly wasn't impressed. 

From April 2007 to January 2010 it appears that he was assigned to basically place-holder billets, possibly in Voluntary Training Units (VTU – unpaid but accruing drill points).  Thus, for the last five years his military training as it relates to this crisis was essentially nil. 

For some 3½ months in 2006 he was assigned to Coastal Riverine Group One in San Diego, before being assigned to a detachment of Coastal Riverine Group Two in Bahrain for 5½ months until April 2007.  These relatively new units (though the mission has been around for some time) is to function as a "brown-water and green-water Navy", small patrol craft operating in the near-offshore and river areas.  A goodly amount of the training would be dedicated to the boats themselves.  Whatever training he had in the few months prior could not have amounted to much in the way of weapons or operational skills, particularly infantry-type skills ashore. 

Between June 2004 and February 2006 he was assigned to an undesignated Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit (MIUW).  These units perform missions in coastal surveillance and harbor defense, using rubber raiding craft such as Zodiacs or the like to patrol and deploy sonobuoys for tracking surface and subsurface craft, with easily deployable (thus the 'Mobile') equipment such as small control vans for radar, sonar, and communications capabilities.  A MIUW, like a Riverine unit, is like an Army round-out unit, comprised of an active duty cadre and reservists to bring it to full capacity if the unit is deployed.  There is no real field training for a MIUW other than what the individuals assigned to it bring with them, aside from occasional small opportunities that present themselves.  It is unclear from his record to what extent he may have spent on active duty during this period, but while a MIUW is definitely several notches above shore duty in the field operations category, and it is part of the Special Warfare community (like the Riverines), again they are not up the level of SEALs by any means.  Neither of these units requires sniper, scuba or demolitions qualifications.
At some point, he also attended some sort of instruction at the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center at Dam Neck, Virginia.  There is no field training at the center, only classroom-type instruction.  While it conducts some rather sophisticated training in some topics, it also deals with some relatively low-level introductory classes as well.  Dorner had no background, nor the time, that would indicate that he was trained in anything other than fairly pedestrian courses.

Previously, he was stashed at the Naval Personnel Command after washing out of flight training. 

His decorations are mundane: the National Defense Service Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal mean that he was on active duty during a national emergency.  Everyone gets them after six months.  He has a Pistol Expert Medal (which one would expect with the training with LAPD) but only a Rifle Marksman ribbon.  While the term 'marksman' can denote a good shot in civilian parlance, its use in the military denotes the lowest recognized capability with a rifle, as opposed to Sharpshooter and finally Expert.  In other words, his skills with a rifle don't amount to the level that the press is giving him.  As for the rest of the decorations, they mean that he was assigned overseas, meaning his brief deployment to Bahrain which is called, as I mentioned before, the 'Paris of the Persian Gulf'.  The Iraq Campaign Medal doesn't necessarily mean that he was in Iraq, only in the theatre of operations (again – Bahrain).

Finally, this brings us round to the reason why he was mustered out of the service a couple weeks ago: it corresponds to the time that a Lieutenant would have been passed over for promotion to Lieutenant Commander, twice.  With that, his services were no longer required.  Nothing in the records released so far indicate whether or not there were the same problems in the Navy that he showed in his short police employment.

Update: He has apparently been trapped in a cabin in the woods in the Big Bear community in the San Bernadino mountains, besieged for a few hours after shooting it out with two deputy sheriffs (one dead, one critically wounded).  The cabin is aflame and it is thought that Dorner is dead amid the flames and exploding ammunition.  A just and appropriate ending, I would think. 

This also belies the stories of his skills in the woods – he holed up in a cabin like most fugitives would.  The length of the search had nothing to do with his skill: autistic 8-year-olds can go missing for days in areas such as this, and they aren't even trying to hide. 

The story of Christopher Dorner may be drawing to a close, but consider in the future how ramped up the press can be in making these inflated and unsubstantiated claims.  It takes some reporters with integrity doing some honest journalistic research to put out the right story, but that doesn't seem to be high on the list of the MSM, particularly when there is a pre-conceived story line that they have to pitch.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Joe Biden Admits Gun Control Is Useless (Update: Other Inane Bidenisms on Gun Control)

It always must be interesting to be in the vicinity of Joe Biden, this buffoon who has been placed just one heartbeat away from the Presidency, because while one may never know what will come out of his mouth (governed by a mind, as was said of Hubert Humphrey, incapable of unuttered thought), one is rarely spared a golden morsel from this Yogi Berra of politics. 

This new report comes from CNN of all places, and demonstrates again the adage that a politician must always assume that outside of only his bathroom there is a microphone or camera – somewhere – recording his every nuance.
The Vice President can be seen sitting among a crowd of fans, when he admits that
Nothing we're going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting or guarantee that we will bring gun deaths down to a thousand a year from what it is now.
CNN's commentator Erin Burnett goes on to ask how it is that he can make that admission in light of his previous statement, done in the presence of photogenic children, that
We have a moral obligation – a moral obligation – to do everything in our power to diminish the prospect that something like this could happen again.
"So which is it?" asks Burnett.  Is that a rhetorical question?  Surely you don't expect Joe Biden to make sense.  It is part and parcel of the thinking in the White House, though, marked most clearly by the exchange between Obama and Charlie Gibson of ABC News in which, despite his effort to obfuscate his answer, Obama frankly admitted that he would rather the government lose tax revenue – take in less money – as long as he could tax the "wealthy" (e.g., anyone with a pension plan), all for the sake of "fairness". 

As for Biden on gun control, this follows his advice to use a double-barrel shotgun in case of emergency (limiting oneself to only two rounds).

This is the calibre of people driving the latest gun control campaign.

Update: On that same note, Biden gave an interview to Field & Stream magazine in which he recommended that one use that same shotgun to deter a home attack by "just fir[ing] the shotgun through the door". 

I have appended a news report from Virginia Beach wherein a resident did exactly that, against two "suspects" who invaded his home and pointed pistols at him.  The two were scared off and police said that they "could not be located", but police have charged the man who defended his home, upon the advice of Joe Biden, with "reckless handling of a firearm".

Maybe Oscar Pistorius could use the same defense.

This follows another report about Biden's advice to his wife Jill should she find herself in a situation where "she is concerned for her safety":
Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.
This follows on his observation that a woman can handle a 12-gauge shotgun better than an AR-15, and 30 rounds for an AR-15 are excessive.  Really?  Think about that: the average woman firing "blasts" from a 12-gauge would find it easier than firing a round slightly larger than a .22-calibre.  If you don't understand that and aren't in a position to experiment on that advice, check with someone who is more tuned into reality than our Vice President.

And should Jill follow this inane advice (rendering her out of ammunition), she will fall subject to the same reaction as our above example in Virginia Beach: Delaware residents are not allowed to discharge firearms on their own property, and she would be charged with felony aggravated menacing and reckless endangering in the first degree, among other charges.  Jill would have to establish that she were "in a truly life-threatening situation"; home invasion is insufficient.

And as an added fillip of irony, she would be prosecuted under the aegis of Joe's son, Beau Biden, who is the state Attorney General.  Maybe Joe should check with Beau (or someone, anyone) before he shoots off his mouth.

But as far as Jill being prosecuted, who am I kidding?  After David Gregory, the Black Panthers, Obama's illegal alien aunt and uncle, a variety of government officials involved in Fast & Furious, and a wide parade of others, why would she be prosecuted?  Laws are for the little people.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Collateral Damage: Women Shot by Police in Manhunt for Cop on Rampage

In a twist to a story already past the 'strange' category, two women delivering newspapers early this morning were hit by gunfire from Los Angeles police who mistook their pickup for one owned by a deranged former Los Angeles police officer, Christopher Dorner.
Dorner is accused of shooting three police officers (one of whom has died) and killing a married couple related to another police official who he has targeted due to an apparent paranoid delusion.  He has left a rambling manifesto in which, interspersed with an enormous variety of 'flow of consciousness' rants, he has threatened "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" against anyone associated with the police, and their families.  (Despite his police background, the press can't help but talk about his military training in the Naval Reserve.  According to his record, he deployed overseas once, to Bahrain – the Paris of the Persian Gulf – and is rated as only a marksman – the lowest category – with what the press calls an 'assault rifle'.)

Christopher Dorner

Thus the manhunt …

Each of the women struck this morning were hit once, one in the hand and the other in the back, amidst a hail of at least 30 rounds fired at them in their vehicle, by a protective detail assigned to one of Dorner's proclaimed targets.  The vehicle was acting suspiciously in that it was driving slowly down the street in the suburban neighborhood with its lights out, much like … well, someone delivering newspapers. 

A second shooting shortly thereafter occurred nearby, by officers from the Torrance Police Department.  In that case, no one was listed as injured. 

In both cases, officers opened fire on vehicles that resembled the truck driven by Dorner. 

The first lesson to be learned by these separate but related shootings is that if you are driving a blue 2005 Nissan Titan, then for the time being pull over, park it and walk away. 

The second is to remember that if you are one of those people who only rely on a 911 call and the prompt arrival of police to protect you, consider the fact that police, no matter how well trained, are imperfect people.  Any large mass of people assembled for whatever purpose must contain within their ranks some noted aberrations, and that must include police.  (And yes, the military as well, as I know from a wide-ranging career with an enormous selection of otherwise dedicated and honorable professionals, along with a few in the eccentric category.) 

Dorner clearly is well off the scale in this regard.  But other police who will react as they did in the above situations must give us pause to consider just how these things can go down.  Ponder also how the notorious 'fog and friction of war' affect these sometimes split-second decisions. 

Remember also a recent instance in Manhattan, when two NYPD officers responded to a fatal shooting on the street in the business district during working hours.  They arrived on the scene quickly, saw the perpetrator walking into a building, followed him into the lobby and confronted him.  The perpetrator drew his weapon and they opened fire.  News reports were quick to report that nine bystanders were wounded in the exchange.  The embarrassing news that came out later was that the perpetrator didn't get off a shot – all of the bystanders were wounded by the multitude of stray shots from the police. 

I am a big fan of the police.  I work with law enforcement practically every day and the vast majority of them are great folks.  But always remember that you are ultimately responsible for your own protection, and act accordingly.

Military Salaries Limited after Pay Raise for Federal Civilians

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reprised his recent "I am outta here" signature on the Females in Combat authorization by recommending to Congress that military pay raises for fiscal year 2014 be limited to 1.0%, down from the 1.7% pay increase for FY 2013, and down again from the 2.9% annual pay increase since FY 2010, which was the minimum allowable as it was tied to the Employment Cost Index of the Department of Labor, so that it could not exceed the average private-sector wage growth.

This does not include the request to cut Guard and Reserve pay that was floated last summer.  Nor is this the standard scare tactic of threats to withhold Social Security and military paychecks unless the Republicans do as they are told.  It brings to mind again the aphorism of Francis Quarles by way of Rudyard Kipling:
God and the soldier we adore
In times of trouble, not before.
When trouble's gone and all things righted,
God's forgotten and the soldier slighted.
Compare this to the Obama executive order that authorizes pay raises for federal civilian employees, to the tune of $11 billion, in time to slide in under the wire before the sequestration debates really heat up.  House Republicans have proposed a bill that would stop the pay hikes.  The lead sponsor of the bill is Rep Ron DeSantis (R-Florida): 
The President has once again demonstrated his penchant for unrestrained spending by giving federal employees an across the board pay hike and sticking the rest of us with the $11 billion bill.  At a time when the average federal worker compensation is nearly double the median US household income, and attrition from the federal workforce is already at an all-time low, we simply cannot afford this unnecessary and unilateral action by the President. 
Being the epitome of Chicago machine politics, it's difficult to imagine Obama being politically tone deaf in the unfortunate timing of his executive order.  Now that he's a lame duck, maybe he just doesn't care. 

Once again, he takes a page from Jimmy Carter, who froze military pay hikes – just the military, not federal civilian – during the depth of the economic crisis of his term, because the military had the integrity to "set the example".

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Medal of Honor: SSG Clinton Romesha, COP Keating, and the Battle of Kamdesh (Update: Swenson, Peralta) (Update: Citation)

The White House has announced that former Staff Sergeant Clinton L Romesha, US Army, has been awarded the Medal of Honor and will receive the decoration at a ceremony at the White House on 11 February 2013.  He will become the eleventh recipient of the award during the campaigns fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in the Global War on Terror, and only the fourth such living recipient.

1LT Bundermann, SSG Romesha, SGT Larson, at ease (from NDNG)

SSG Romesha (rōm' ə shā) is receiving the award for actions during the controversial Battle of Kamdesh at Combat Outpost (COP) Keating in Afghanistan, which took place on 3 October 2009.  At the time he was a section leader in a 53-man detachment of B Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry as part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.  This small outpost had an additional detachment (at least, at the beginning) of some 30 Afghan National Army (ANA) with their two Latvian Army advisors, Sergeant First Class Janis Lakins and Corporal Martins Dabolins.  This small outpost, including a smaller observation post, was attacked by almost 400 enemy Anti-Afghan Forces (AAF) in an effort to wipe it out, and they almost succeeded. 

COP Keating, along with its OP Fritsche, was situated in a valley in the Kamdesh district of the heavily mountainous province of Nuristan in the Hindu Kush, along a small river and collocated with the village of Urmul, about 14 miles from the border with Pakistan.  The valley marks part of the natural corridor that links the insurgents in the sanctuary of the outlaw territory of Pakistan with the lower elevations around Jalalabad and Kabul to the southwest.  Little artillery support was available (though the COP and OP each had mortars in place), hampered by the high ground surrounding the COP, and helicopter support was from Jalalabad, about a 30 minute flight away.

Footage of a firefight at COP Keating from a previous deployment, seen from OP Fritsche

As for the situation of the outpost, what immediately strikes anyone with even a passing military experience is that the COP was at the bottom of a steep valley among some sharply elevated terrain surrounding it.  Observation Post (OP) Fritsche was established to the immediate south to provide some partial overwatch, and was some 2.2 kilometers away and 2144 feet higher in elevation.  It was not in a line of sight from the outpost in the valley, and was connected by a small trail through heavy forest, with many switchbacks.  COP Keating and OP Fritsche were established and maintained along this Taliban line of communication, despite its obvious vulnerability, due to the idea that a shift to a more counter-insurgent (COIN) strategy should put the troops into close contact with Afghan villagers.  (For some reason, I couldn't post a short video of a panorama of the imposing terrain around Keating, but it can be found here.)

A factor which plays into this is the question of the Afghan surge that was starting to unfold during this period.  During the close of the Bush administration, the successful Iraqi surge was being considered as a lesson learned for application to Afghanistan.  (We essentially won the second phase of the Iraq War by the summer of 2008, even if the MSM refused to acknowledge it.)   Afghanistan had been considered an 'economy of force' operation during our dedication to the Iraq theatre and its need for the majority of American troops, and during that time the AAF, consisting of native Taliban, foreign al Qaeda, and mixtures of tribal, terrorist, and criminal elements (like the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin [HiG], the Islamic Army of the warlord Hekmatyar Gulbuddin, or the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] 'Righteous Army' operating primarily out of the Pakistani territory of Kashmir just across the border) began to slowly filter in and ramp up operations there.  The transition of administrations from Bush to Obama delayed the process of turning our attention to the new threat in Afghanistan, and the drawn-out dithering of Obama on the matter delayed it still further, presumably for the optics of showing how painfully careful Obama was with such a momentous decision, conferring over and over with a huge host of supposed experts, all of whom had to acclimate themselves to their new offices as well.  In January 2009, an initial request of some 30,000 troops by General David McKiernan was cut by Obama to 17,000. 

A later request to amp up our troop presence still further was more widely reported, primarily for the extended time that it took to come to a conclusion.  The conventional memory holds that General Stanley McChrystal (who succeeded McKiernan in May) and his staff, among other Pentagon echelons, recommended a surge of some 40,000 troops, but by the time that Obama finally made his pronouncement later in December, he had cut it to 30,000 troops, without ever giving a cogent reason for the sharp decrease – again.  (His statement also included the inexplicable announcement that he would withdraw the troops within eighteen months, allowing the Taliban to simply run out the clock and step back in.)  What is generally unreported is that the recommendation from the military was for 40,000 to 60,000 troops, with the 40,000 mark as the lowest possible number of troops that could conceivably achieve the plan.  The result from the Obama administration was that the American contingent of ISAF was left with having to make do with what it had.  With Obama's patently political decision, the entire Afghan strategy became one of marking time until we could leave, with no chance of accomplishing anything of real substance during his administration.  The shift into a COIN strategy was undertaken with a fatuous notion that it could occur in a security vacuum – living among the people became more important than trying to find, fix, attack, destroy and pursue the enemy.  The idea that both had to happen in order to be effective simply wasn't an option. 

What troops who were available in the area of Regional Command - East comprised some 50 rifle or maneuver companies, and were stretched among some 120 outposts in highly mountainous terrain.  For comparison's sake, average battalions of less than 1000 troops were covering areas about the size of a very mountainous Connecticut. 

It was apparent to higher authority that COP Keating (as were many others) was hung out to dry, particularly after the Battle of Wanat that occurred some 20 miles away and some fifteen months before, in July 2008.  In that battle, at an outpost in very similar circumstances to COP Keating, a similar-sized US unit was attacked by hundreds of AAF before being repulsed by the troops there thanks to the assistance of close air support, at the cost of nine US soldiers killed and 27 wounded.  George Santayana is credited with saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and that axiom was to prove to be lethally true. 

Charlie Gibson of ABC News dutifully passed along a Taliban propaganda piece about the Battle of Wanat.  Note the enemy troops assembled and carrying a black al Qaeda flag at about 0:55, before including the press statement of the Taliban commander, in front of a white Taliban flag, at about 1:13.  This is one element that belies the academic nonsense that seeks to distinguish between the various Jihadi groups – when it comes to attacking US and NATO troops, they are effectively the same. 

COP Keating was thus subjected to a double-edged sword – on the one hand, a series of probing and harassing attacks by the AAF for some months, gaining information about the various responses – the tactics and procedures – of the American troops, and the outpost also began to pick up on information of a growing enemy presence in the area.  These attacks were duly reported up the chain of command, but they were dismissed and downgraded as inaccurate or inflated due to lack of corroborating intelligence, particularly signal intelligence, and the evidence of a larger number of AAF was dismissed due to the small numbers involved in the attacks, overlooking the idea that the outpost was being probed.  This type of complacent dismissal by the distant staff 'experts' was the same that led to the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, the Tet Offensive in 1968, and the Egyptian surprise success against the Israeli Bar-Lev Line in 1973, among too many other examples. 

On the other hand, despite a ramping up of enemy activity in the area and the probing attacks, Keating did not receive support in improving its defensive perimeter because it was slated to be shut down in July 2009, and the villagers were advised of that plan.  But due to command attention being diverted to other operations in the region (not the least of which was the nearby Battle of Ganjgal in September, with its poor staff support), that date was progressively postponed for months. 

COP Keating - before

Just two days before the attack, the outpost commander, Captain Stoney Portis, along with a platoon commander and a scout, were lifted out by helo in order to visit OP Fritsche by way of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bostick in nearby Kunar province to the southeast.  The helo trip of an estimated 20 minutes was far more effective than the more exposed march up the trail that would take about four hours.  Shortly after lifting off, however, the helo was struck by enemy sniper fire and was damaged enough to have to return to base for repairs, taking the command element with them.  The only line officer left was First Lieutenant Andrew Bundermann, who was effectively left in command of the outpost.  The only other officer was Captain Christopher Cordova, a physician assistant who ran the small medical detachment of four other men in a make-shift sickbay that they had recently expanded and enhanced for protective measures. 

The enemy infiltrated into Urmul and surrounding areas the night before and quietly evacuated the residents.  The battle began that morning at 0558, with a continuous fusillade of rifle, heavy machine gun (DShK), RPG, mortar and recoilless rifle fire from all directions, with a simultaneous attack on OP Fritsche.  Bundermann and Sergeant First Class Jonathon Hill (the acting commander of the other platoon) said that the volume of fire signaled in just a few moments that this was not going to be one of the probing attacks to which they had become accustomed.  The heavy barrage of rifle and supporting arms fire continued unabated for at least three hours, with mortar rounds pounding Keating and Fritsche about every 15 seconds.  The high volume of fire effectively pinned the troops in place at the beginning, and the concentration of RPG and rifle fire on the mortar pits prevented their mortar crews (60mm and 120mm) in both locations from providing support. 

The developed hard points in the outpost defense were basically occupied by five armored HMMWVs with weapons such as .50-calibres and M240B (7.62mm) machine guns, along with a TOW missile launcher.  Each of them was subjected to heavy RPG fire in the well-rehearsed attack and all were hit at least six times each. 

The first response of the Americans after realizing the magnitude of the attack was to dash to their pre-assigned fighting positions, mainly to reinforce the armored vehicles and those on watch inside.  It took little time for them to evaluate the situation and the incoming firepower, but they too were well rehearsed in the worst-case scenarios.  It took a few moments to grasp that this surpassed their expectations in that regard, but they were also well versed in the axiom that anything you do in combat can get you killed, particularly if you do nothing. 

The first response of the Afghan ANA troops, subjected to an assault on their side of the compound, was to melt away and become almost immediately combat ineffective, and the AAF forces quickly overwhelmed and secured the nearby Afghan National Police station.  Both the police station near the Entry Control Point (ECP) and the mosque, which the enemy knew from frequent experience was supposed to be considered untouchable by the higher elements of US command, became strong points in the enemy plan for assault on the outpost.  Bundermann soon received word of "enemy in the wire", which he later mentioned, with a dark grin, was "a report that you don't ever want to get." 

Power to the installation was cut when a mortar round took out the main generator, and Bundermann and the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) then relied on the battery-powered TACSAT radio for communications to supporting forces.  It was this air support, in the form of helo and fixed-wing assets, as well as some 155mm artillery support from FOB Bostick that ultimately provided the extra edge in the battle.  (The artillery was barely within range and limited due to the high terrain surrounding them, so the TOC focused on shifting fires to support Fritsche, which in turn allowed the OP to man up their mortar and support Keating while still under fire.) 

Romesha, like others, moved between the positions giving aid and support to the troops.  At one point, he ran to a HHMWV to check on Specialist Zach Koppes.  When Koppes asked about the situation, Romesha said matter-of-factly, "This doesn't look good.  We're all going to die."  Romesha then laughed and asked how he was doing.  Koppes replied that he was pretty good except for the enemy sniper behind him.  Romesha picked up an ex-Soviet Dragunov sniper rifle left lying around from the absent ANA troops at about the same time that the enemy took a shot at him.  Romesha ducked behind cover but then alternately exposed himself ("playing peekaboo") with the sniper until Romesha could get a bead on him.  Romesha then fired at the position until he was satisfied that he had neutralized the sniper, then airily told Koppes, "Okay, I'm going to head out now." 

(Others may find this exchange difficult to understand, but I can appreciate his sense of humor in that situation, and it is something that doesn't easily lend itself to the worldview of non-veterans.  Usually the first example that pops into my mind – among many others – was one many years ago: I was part of rifle squad flying in a Marine H-34 helicopter (yes, that many years ago) when the engine suddenly cut out and we experienced that sickening drop in our stomachs.  A young Marine across from me started to panic, but then the staff NCO next to him reached up and put his hand on his shoulder and gently shook him in that Marine kind of way.  "What's wrong?" the sergeant strangely shouted (the situation seemed rather apparent to me at the time), and the young Marine said, with bulging eyes, "We're gonna crash!"  The sergeant gestured about the confined space and fixed the fellow with close eye contact, and said with an unforgettable, crazy grin, "That's okay!  We're all gonna die!"  That was all it took to calm down the disconcerted young Marine, oddly reassured that we were all in this together, before the rotors started to auto-rotate and the pilot re-started the engine.) 

Romesha continued to move about the compound.  He noted an intensity of fire from a reinforced enemy machine gun position and continued to expose himself in order to be certain of its exact location.  He took out that position and was about to engage another when the generator he was seeking cover behind was struck by an RPG, peppering him with shrapnel. 

Several accounts from journalists (being journalists) tell of how the outpost was "overrun".  That is a dramatic term but untrue – while the Taliban came close, the Americans and their two Latvian allies were for a time pushed back into only two buildings until they devised a plan and determination to take their post back, which by then was ablaze in several places and ultimately destroyed some 70% of the outpost including, ultimately, the TOC.  SSG Romesha, back with the command element by that time, summed up his attitude up to that point (using emphasis appropriate to the moment) to those around him: "We need to take this fucking place back and drive the fucking Taliban out!"  Bundermann, the First Sergeant and others in the TOC continued to communicate and coordinate with the supporting fires, while SFC Hill with Blue (3rd) Platoon and SSG Romesha with Red (1st) Platoon (at least those who came available), proceeded to split the camp between themselves and move out to steadily eliminate the enemy. 

Specialist Thomas Rasmussen was also back seeking more ammo to run out to the positions when he applied dressings to Romesha's wounds.  He was picked up by Romesha as part of his group to move out and re-take the outpost and along with Corporal Justin Gregory, they opened the door into the compound.  They were immediately confronted with a Taliban in the courtyard and a hail of automatic rifle fire.  Slamming the door, SPC Rasmussen prepared himself, then kicked open the door again, tossed hand grenades, and sprayed the area with rounds and grenades from his M-203 as they poured out of the enclosure. 

Once outside, Romesha saw three Taliban around a corner, with one wearing ANA camouflage.  They were relaxed and settling in as if they were assured that the battle was over and the Taliban had secured the outpost.  He asked the Latvians if any ANA were left at that position and confirmed that no, they were real targets.  "A gimme shot", Romesha recalled, and he leaned out and shot one in the head, killing him instantly.  The other two scrambled for cover but were taken out by the two Latvians with gunfire and grenades. 

The Taliban began to reinforce their attack with an increasing volume of recoilless rifle fire and RPGs.  Romesha sought out the pocket where the fire was coming from and coordinated air support to destroy it, killing some 30 enemy.  Romesha's ad hoc platoon (minus) attacked and re-secured the Ammo Supply Point and restocked on munitions (particularly grenades), all the while under fire, then re-took the ECP and set about barricading it.  All of them were involved to one degree or another with finding and moving their wounded comrades (some fatally) back to the aid station.  SGT Brad Larson was instrumental in aiding and recovering six men. 

To their credit, the air support assets ignored the political implications and blasted the Taliban hardened position in the mosque.

Captain Cordova, meanwhile, was busy attending to the medical and tactical needs of his aid station, and provides a compelling and illustrative account (pp 21-25).  The aid station ultimately treated 43 US and Afghan casualties. 

After the arrival of the QRF, and assisted by the air support that was stacked up and active throughout the battle, Keating and Fritsche were finally secured by twilight that night.  In this swirling and confusing battle, the biggest battle of the Afghan campaign after the Battle of Wanat, a number of heroes stood out in addition to Romesha, with  eight being awarded the Silver Star, including Cordova, Bundermann, Hill, Rasmussen, SGT Victor De La Cruz, SPC Keith Stickney, SGT Bradley Larson, and SSG Justin Gallegos (posthumous).

News of Romesha's Medal of Honor has revived interest in the history of COP Keating chronicled in The Outpost by Jake Tapper, formerly the White House correspondent for ABC and now an anchor for CNN.  Tapper admits that he had no background in understanding the military, and it shows, but he has put a great effort into showing the details of the history of what became COP Keating, and it is explained in a way that non-veterans can grasp.

Additionally, SPC Ty Carter has been recommended for a Medal of Honor as well.  Carter, a sniper, carried ammunition resupplies to besieged positions, all the while under withering fire, and under like conditions recovered a wounded soldier, to whom he administered first aid.  He also took a chain saw and cut down and removed a burning tree that was threatening to catch the aid station on fire, all the while under still fire from the enemy.  [Update: Carter has received the MoH at a White House ceremony on 26 August 2013.]

The battle was a victory for us at the end, though at a cost of eight KIA and 22 wounded in exchange for some 150 enemy casualties.  After a quick mop-up, the compound was abandoned within two days, which the Army insists was according to the original plan.  What couldn't be packed out was destroyed in place, and the site was bombed by a B-1 the day after. 

COP Keating - after

Despite this, al Jazeera (or maybe I should say Al Gore-zeera) television news portrayed Taliban fighters purportedly searching through scads of munitions left behind by Americans in their haste to depart. 

Taliban propaganda

This is a standard Taliban/Jazeera tactic to portray the battle as a victory for them; one sees the same claim on footage of the Wanat after-effects above, as well as Outpost Restrepo made famous by the documentary of the same name.  It takes nothing to haul in whatever the Taliban wants to show.
More Taliban propaganda

The Battle of Kamdesh, as it came to be known officially, was naturally the subject of an Army AR 15-6 investigation afterward, and the unclassified Executive Summary has become available.  It clearly concludes:
The Soldiers of B Troop demonstrated courage, bravery, and heroism as they inflicted over 150 casualties on enemy forces and reestablished their perimeter.  In the process, the Soldiers embodied the Warrior Ethos and recovered all friendly casualties.  As evening fell on the night of 3 October 2009, COP Keating remained solidly under US control and enemy forces had suffered a tactical defeat.  Eight American Soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice defending their outpost and their fellow Soldiers.
Those who gave their lives in battle were: SSG Justin T Gallegos, SGT Christopher T Griffin, SGT Joshua M Hardt, SGT Joshua J Kirk, SPC Stephan L Mace, SSG Vernon W Martin, SGT Michael P Scusa, and PFC Kevin C Thomson. 

In addition to the well-deserved praise for the combatants, the report held the higher command in condign censure:
The mission for COP Keating during the rotation of B Troop was unclear to the Soldiers of B Troop. . . . [O]wing to the limited manpower and tactical reach off of the compound, the mission devolved into one of base defense and by mid-2009 there was no tactical or strategic value to holding the ground occupied by COP Keating.  As a result, the chain of command decided to close the remote outpost as soon as it could.  Originally scheduled for closure in July-August 2009, COP Keating's withdrawal was delayed when the assets required to backhaul the base supplies were diverted. . . . Similarly, ISR assets [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] that could have given the Soldiers at COP Keating better situational awareness of their operational environment were reprioritized . . . 
The delayed closing of COP Keating is important as it contributed to a mindset of imminent closure that served to impede improvements in force protection to the COP.  There were inadequate measures taken by the chain of command, resulting in an attractive target for enemy fighters.  Over time, and without raising undue concern within the US intelligence system, the enemy conducted numerous probing attacks . . .
Compounding the situation for the Soldiers on COP Keating, intelligence assessments became desensitized to enemy actions over several months. . . . [T]he perception prevailed that reports of massing enemy forces were exaggerated and improbable.  The focus became the enemy's most likely, rather than his most dangerous course of action.
The result of the investigation was to issue four Letters of Reprimand or Admonition to four unnamed officers in the chain of command, up to the rank of colonel.  While I am fully aware that a "culture of excessive investigations" can create an eat-your-young, risk-averse atmosphere (the peacetime Army bureaucratic milieu that the administration is trying to re-impose) in a culture that demands risk-taking (calculated though it must be), I fully agree that some strict form of accountability must be demanded in this case of superlative courage overcoming self-inflicted obstacles.

In related news on the subject of the Medal of Honor, the recommendation for Captain Will Swenson, which has been the subject of controversy since the Battle of Ganjgal and his part in the investigation afterward, as well as questions about the handling of his recommendation package (lending it to speculation about political reprisal), is yet to be determined.  (Note that all recommendations for high-level decorations are handled in a confidential manner as a matter of policy, and it is only when discrepancies appear, such as in this case which drew Congressional inquiry, that such stories become a matter of public interest.)

As for the case of Sergeant Rafael Peralta, USMC, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta concluded that the new physical evidence submitted in the request for the Medal of Honor, as well as the testimony of another forensic pathologist that cast doubt on the conclusions of the pathologists who concluded that Peralta must have been dead from a head wound and was thus unable to sweep a grenade to his body to save the lives of his fellow Marines, despite the eye-witness testimony of those Marines, was insufficient to overcome the 'beyond a shadow of a doubt' requirement of the MoH.  The awarding of the Navy Cross thus remains as the official testimony of his heroic sacrifice of the last few moments of his life.  This concludes the congressional inquiry of Rep Duncan D Hunter (R-California) into the curious case and its conclusion.  Ironically, left unexplained is the fact that Peralta's citation for the Navy Cross states that he "reached out and pulled the grenade to his body", an action that the Medal of Honor panel concluded was impossible.

Update:  The medal has been awarded, with the accompanying official citation:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

"Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a Section Leader with Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations against an armed enemy at Combat Outpost Keating, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on October 3, 2009.

"On that morning, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his comrades awakened to an attack by an estimated 300 enemy fighters occupying the high ground on all four sides of the complex, employing concentrated fire from recoilless rifles, rocket propelled grenades, anti-aircraft machine guns, mortars and small arms fire.
"Staff Sergeant Romesha moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action with the support of an assistant gunner.

"Staff Sergeant Romesha took out an enemy machine gun team and, while engaging a second, the generator he was using for cover was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, inflicting him with shrapnel wounds.

"Undeterred by his injuries, Staff Sergeant Romesha continued to fight and upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him and the assistant gunner, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.

"Staff Sergeant Romesha then mobilized a five-man team and returned to the fight equipped with a sniper rifle. With complete disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Romesha continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire, as he moved confidently about the battlefield engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets, including three Taliban fighters who had breached the combat outpost’s perimeter.

"After receiving reports that seriously injured Soldiers were at a distant battle position, Staff Sergeant Romesha and his team provided covering fire to allow the injured Soldiers to safely reach the aid station.

"Upon receipt of orders to proceed to the next objective, his team pushed forward 100 meters under overwhelming enemy fire to recover and prevent the enemy fighters from taking the bodies of their fallen comrades. Staff Sergeant Romesha’s heroic actions throughout the day-long battle were critical in suppressing an enemy that had far greater numbers. His extraordinary efforts gave Bravo Troop the opportunity to regroup, reorganize and prepare for the counterattack that allowed the Troop to account for its personnel and secure Combat Outpost Keating.

"Staff Sergeant Romesha’s discipline and extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty reflect great credit upon himself, Bravo Troop, 3d Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the United States Army."

Update: Staff Sergeant Ty Carter has been awarded the Medal of Honor as well.