February 2007 Archives

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My Wkly Std cover story: "The Democrats' Special Forces Fetish"

By Michael Fumento

Weekly Standard Spec Ops CoverIt was one bullet point in the plan for the Pelosi Congress's "first 100 hours," two sentences in the Democrats' 31-page "New Direction for America" document released last June: In order to "Defeat terrorists and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we will . . . . Double the size of our Special Forces" (emphasis added)

Sounds nifty, doesn't it, like a bumper sticker reading "Outlaw War Now!"? And, indeed, top-notch warriors play an invaluable role in any war but are most useful in the sorts of guerrilla actions and anti-terrorist activity that will probably dominate the military's missions for the next generation. There are just two problems.

First, doubling can only be accomplished by going a disastrous route - making special ops no longer special. Second, false solutions crowd out real ones. Much can be done to improve the quality of our armed forces, but this Democratic proposal doesn't make the grade. Read the rest here.

(Incidentally, the magazine would seem to have made the same error the Democrats did in calling Special Operations Forces "Special Forces," but that was for lack of space. The Weekly Standard didn't have 31 pages to play with.)

February 24, 2007 05:50 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Ollie North and Fox continue coverup of North's role in Ramadi deaths

By Michael Fumento

Oliver Northl
Oliver North: Remaining Unfaithful

On December 6, Marine Maj. Megan McClung, Army Capt. Travis Patriquin, and Army Spc. Vincent Pomante were killed instantly in Ramadi when their Humvee was ripped apart by an IED. At the time, they were accompanying Fox TV's Ollie North and his crew plus a Newsweek reporter to their embed positions. Newsweek never even mentioned their deaths. North subsequently noted McClung's death, while ignoring that of the soldiers. He also made no mention that any of them died helping him. Fox went even further, falsely claiming on February 7th that they "died while supporting combat operations." Sorry, embedding is not a combat operation. North had a chance to change this during his "War Stories" broadcast of Feb. 11, when he mentioned the deaths. But all he said was they occurred, "while War Stories was embedded with 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division."

These three people, including the top female Marine to perish in Iraq, died helping North with his mission and he refuses to acknowledge it. Obviously "Semper Fidelis," for all of his grandstanding, means nothing to him.

February 22, 2007 05:53 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Media

New video from the two firefights in "The New Band of Brothers"

By Michael Fumento

I'm not sure why he took so long, but SSgt. Bobby Statum, who works for Army Public Affairs, has finally released video on YouTube he shot last April of the two firefights I wrote about in "The New Band of Brothers." The video switches back and forth between the actions. The one in Ramadi's Mulaab region features Capt. Joe "Crazy Joe" Claburn, commander of C Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne and SEAL Team Three. Posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor nominee and SEAL Michael Monsoor makes his first appearance at the 36-second mark. His machine gun is readily identifiable by the bipod. (All the SEALs are easily recognized by their sand-colored camo uniforms with no helmet covers.)

The fight the next day in the Industrial Area, including OP Hotel, involved A Co., 1/506th and what I dubbed "the Ramadi Run" through a hail of bullets as we departed relatively safe rooftops and sprinted to our rendezvous point. Yours truly makes cameo appearances (khaki uniform and black camera bag) at the 6:20 and 7:40 points.

As with me, these were Bobby's first two firefights and he handled himself bravely. Good on him for finally making this video public.

February 17, 2007 06:44 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Ramadi Video from 1/506th: "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

By Michael Fumento

Spc. Andy Johnson from A. Co., 1/506th, 101st Airborne sent me this video montage he put together from his vacation at Camp Corregidor this past year. It includes a couple of video clips of mine and some other good action shots - though I don't understand why he left out a great clip of an F-18 ground attack. (Betcha he inserts it when he reads this.) Among the most interesting is footage of a Humvee he and two others from his platoon were in when the back end was hit by an RPG-7. It knocked the whole back off and nobody inside suffered more than a bad case of nerves. Best of all, it's not set to heavy metal music - which I cannot stand - but rather a nice tune from The Man in Black.

February 13, 2007 09:39 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

So much for "only" a decade till we have ES Cell Treatments

By Michael Fumento

"Adult stem cells cure and treat more than 70 diseases and are involved in almost 1,300 human clinical trials," I noted in my recent Daily Standard article "Code of Silence." Meanwhile there's never been so much as one clinical trial involving embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Researchers admit we won't have approved embryonic stem cell treatments for at least 10 years."

I concluded by questioning the morality of turning larger amounts of federal research money over to ESC research when all they promise is promise - a decade out, at that. Well, as Gomer Pyle was wont to say: "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" Some ESC researchers are admitting that a decade is far too optimistic. "Some" means James Thomson, who along with his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1998 became the first scientist to isolate a line of stem cells from a human embryo.

In addressing the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's annual convention at Lake Delton, Wisconsin, Thomson pointed out that obstacles to therapeutic ESC research are daunting. "I don't want to sound too pessimistic because this is all doable, but it's going to be very hard," he said, and "it's likely to take a long time." As to how long, the Associated Press writer present characterized it as "likely decades away." Do the math with me. Two decades is 20 years, but Thomson didn't specify how many. It could be three or four decades.

As to what we can expect from those therapies, As the AP put it: "One day, some believe the cells will become sources of brain tissue, muscle and bone marrow to replace diseased or injured body parts." How truly exciting! Stem cells from bone marrow have been used for decades to create new bone marrow for cancer victims. In the last few years they have been used by doctors all over the world to rebuild human heart tissue. At least one experiment used these stem cells to therapeutically rebuild human liver tissue. Finally, bone marrow stem cells have been successfully used to treat brain diseases like Parkinsonism in animal models and assuredly will soon enter human testing. How soon? Well, probably a lot earlier than "decades."

Personally I'm just waiting for ESC research advocates to announce that, given enough money and decades of time, they'll also build a computer with the processing power of a give-away pocket calculator.

February 13, 2007 04:20 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells

Having a ball with the 1/506th (101st Airborne) at Ft. Campbell

By Michael Fumento

I was delighted to receive an invitation as a special guest to the annual (usually) ball of First Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I had spent two embeds with these soldiers at nasty Camp Corregidor in Ramadi and had already come to feel like I was a member of their "Band of Brothers." Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ron Clark extended the invitation to me and confirmed that, unlike at Corregidor, body armor and Kevlar helmet were not required at all times - or indeed at all.

My photoset of the ball is posted here. (Participants please feel free to offer corrections on names or providing first names where I only have last.)

I'd never been to Ft. Campbell and was delighted to find it was a far nicer place than where I spent my time, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina - but then, I'd guess virtually any base would be. We didn't refer to it as "the armpit of the south" for nothing. The town next to Campbell, Clarksville, also beat the living you-know-what out of Bragg's civilian neighbor Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Fayetteville we referred to fondly as "Fayettenam" and "Fatalburg.")

First we attended an officers' reception at Clark's house, where I got a chance to become reacquainted or acquainted with many of those men. (There was also a woman officer, 1st Lt. Jennifer Wynn, executive officer (XO) of Easy Company.) The last time I'd seen these people they were wearing ACUs and, yes, armor and helmets. It was strange seeing them in their brilliant dress blues with cascades of ribbons and awards. Almost all of them wore the paratrooper's silver wings, I'm happy to report, even though the 101st hasn't been an airborne unit for decades.

I thought it possible that Clark was a closet tee-totaler; in fact, to my delight he's quite the beer connoisseur and all attendees benefited thereby. (But I'll bet he also drinks tea.) There was a long series of unofficial awards given out to the many officers who were leaving or had already left the unit, although I couldn't see much because I was stuck behind a Navy SEAL who, like all SEALs it seems, was built rather like a redwood tree. Or to put it another way, SEALs look like you'd expect them to look. Both this ceremony and the ball weren't actually so much 1/506th but rather "Task Force Currahee, which includes anybody who served at Corregidor while Clark was in charge. That's why we there were men there from SEAL Team 3 and at least one Marine.

The ball was an absolute kick. I admit to feeling great pride as they played the "New Band of Brothers video," drawing the title from my first article about them. It included written excerpts from the piece and a few of my photos in the montage that followed.

But the choice part of the evening was seeing the guys with whom I was in combat. I introduced myself to a SEAL and asked if we'd been together on that roof in the Mulaab. Indeed, we were. He was the one of whom I wrote:

A SEAL near me has an old wooden-stock M-79 40mm grenade launcher (affectionately called a "Thumper") that was phased out late in the Vietnam war in favor of the M-203, a 40mm tube attached below an M-16 rifle. I had wondered why he'd chosen to carry this but now found out. Another vehicle is spotted, a flatbed with four jihadists bearing AKs. [Joe] Claburn and others bring it to a screeching halt with a fusillade of bullets to the engine block; then the SEAL with the Thumper smoothly extracts it from a strap around his waist as if it's just another appendage and drops the grenade dead center on the jihadists' truck. One shot; one kill. Those SEALs fight like machines.

Lots of guys were there from the next day's firefight with A Company as well, the ones I joined on "The Ramadi Run" through an ambush. We still laughed over it. They sure made us dance with their machine guns and AKs, but we made it through with nothing more than a great story to tell. Andrew Johnson was there, the guy who looked so young I asked if his mom knew where he was. Alas, Corregidor ages you. He almost looks old enough to be in the Army now. Almost.

And yes, "Crazy Joe" Claburn was in attendance. He left partway through the deployment to join an airborne pathfinder unit, first in Iraq and then back at Ft. Campbell. And yeah, he's still nutty. Where his name should have been on his dress blues he had "America" imprinted instead. Oh well, God Bless America. He said I made him famous "for five weeks" when I reported on his comments on the Mulaab rooftop as we were taking fire. "Hear them cracking over your head?" he shouted. "That'll get your peter hard, huh?"

He told me that some time later somebody stopped him a chow hall and said, "You're Crazy Joe aren't you? The guy who said being shot at makes your peter hard!" Guilty, guilty, guilty. Later anti-war and ultra-lib talk show host Al Franken commented on that while I was on his show as if show there was something seriously wrong with Claburn - and perhaps the Americans fighting in Iraq generally. But if so, it's not that comment that proves it. As CJ pointed out to me, and as I had no need to hear, in situations like that you've got to do things besides just firing back to keep your head about you. My own videos show me laughing and singing ("We gotta get outta this place . . . ") during the next day's fight. Is that crazier than dwelling on the possibility of a round taking off the top of your head off or an RPG making you go splat? I think not.

In any event, Claburn brought his girlfriend of two years who was gorgeous flesh on the outside and titanium on the inside. Her husband had been killed early in the war by an IED and she later actually took a slight demotion from Captain to Chief Warrant Officer 2 in order to become a Kiowa Scout pilot. "That's because it's one of the few combat slots open to women, right?" I said. "That's right!" she answered. It's a terribly dangerous job, as well. Maybe she's crazy too. But dating all of America will do that to you.

My wife, not incidentally, was delighted. She had come to know these men through my writings, my pictures, and my stories. But meeting them was something else entirely. Yes, Ron Clark really is that professional and yet affable. Yes, she could see why XO Matt Keller and I became buddies in a grand total of four days at Corregidor. Andrew Johnson really does look like a kid, but then so do so many of these elite warriors. I think she was perhaps most delighted to meet Rob Killion, who became the "star" of my article by virtue of popping an exceptional number of bad guys in front of my camcorder and still camera and his down-home sense of humor in a deadly situation.

One of the few somber points of the evening included unveiling a flat stone carving by a local firefighter and a plaque to the names of the 11 fallen of Task Force Currahee. It included the battalion's original XO Lt. Col. Paul Finken who was sent to Baghdad to oversee the training of Iraqi soldiers and died in an IED explosion with less than two weeks left on his tour. SSgt. Michael A. Dickinson II was providing his PSYOPS expertise to Currahee when he was killed by small arms fire. At bottom center of the plaque was Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, the SEAL who died when he threw himself on a grenade to save his three buddies. He's now up for the Congressional Medal of Honor. I'd like also to mention Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Alan Lee who, while not part of Task Force Currahee, fought alongside its men and became the first SEAL to die in Ramadi and Iraq. Part of the plaque's inscription, from John 15:13, reads: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his fellow friend." That applies to all the fallen.

But let me say this. Eleven men lost is exactly 11 too many. Especially men like these. But there were out of about 1,000 soldiers in Task Force Currahee fighting in the worst conditions in Iraq. By rights, far more should have died but for the leadership of Clark, Finken, Keller, Crazy Joe and Justin Michel and the other company commanders, Command Sgt. Major Michael Catterton, and indeed each individual member of Currahee who fought desperately to accomplish their mission and keep their buddies alive.

Alas, the 1/506th as I knew it is already passing into history. Clark and A Co. Commander Justin Michel are coming to my town, specifically the Pentagon. Matt Keller is off to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. But this unit, and what it accomplished in its tour in Ramadi, like its illustrious forebears who dropped behind the lines at Normandy, will pass into glorious history.

February 12, 2007 11:37 AM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

Stem Cell Breakthroughs and Coverups

By Michael Fumento

Adult stem cells cure and treat more 70 diseases and are involved in almost 1,300 human clinical trials. Scientists also keep discovering that adult stem cells are capable of creating a wider variety of mature cells. Perhaps the most promising of these was announced in the January issue of Nature Biotechnology.

As I observe in the February 8 Daily Standard, Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, reported that stem cells in the amniotic fluid that fills the sac surrounding the fetus may be just as versatile as embryonic stem cells. At the same time they maintain all the advantages that have made adult stem cells such a success.

This has caused great consternation on the part of those seeking increased taxpayer embryonic stem cell funds. The reason is that there are currently no practical applications for this type of cell. There hasn't even been a single clinical trial involving them. Researchers admit we won't have approved embryonic stem cell treatments for at least 10 years. So they seek to downplay the Atala findings, claiming among other things that human trials are years away. Yes, they sure are. An amniotic stem cell is the same as a placental one. There was one placental stem cell clinical trial reported in America's leading medical journal in 1996 and another in 1998. If you count back, that's "years away."

Meanwhile the New York Times decided Atala's work wasn't "fit to print." The given explanation is a readily demonstrable lie, just as the Times lied two years ago when it claimed there wasn't a single treatment or cure involving adult stem cells. Read all about it!

February 8, 2007 10:53 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells