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Top 10 Most Sinister PSYOPS Mission Patches

Posted by Admin on August 1, 2011

http://vigilantcitizen.com/vigilantreport/top-10-most-sinister-psyops-mission-patches/

By  | June 20th, 2011

 

Mission patches are used by military and space organizations to identify, symbolize and describe a mission’s objectives and its crew. This tradition is also observed in the shady world of PSYOPS where each secret mission of the Pentagon gets its patch. These patches offer a rare glimpse into the Pentagon’s secret operations and the symbolism on them is rather striking: ominous and cryptic phrases, dark occult symbolism, references to secret societies, and sometimes even a rather dark sense of humor. Here’s the top 10 most sinister PSYOPS patches.

In 1965, NASA began using cloth patches to identify each of its missions and to symbolize the missions’ objectives and their crew.  Each rocket launch has therefore a patch designed by crew members and in collaboration with the official design team. The patches are then proudly displayed on equipment and worn by NASA astronauts and other personnel affiliated with a particular manned or unmanned space mission.

Various NASA mission patches

Since then, other organizations involved in space travel and secret operations began using mission patches, including those that specialize in PSYOPS (psychological warfare): the CIA, the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). What does space travel have to do with psychological warfare? Spy satellites. Since 1960, the NRO (whose existence was only declassified in 1992) has launched dozens of secret spy satellites into space, collecting an incredible amount of information on the United States’ friends, enemies and citizens.

As it is nearly impossible to obtain information regarding these highly classified endeavours, mission patches offer a rare glimpse into the world of PSYOPS. Even if one is not well-versed in symbolism, it is easy to perceive a sinister “vibe” emanating from the patch designs. Laced with strange symbols, ominous creatures, obscure Latin phrases and even dark humor, these patches reflect the mindstate of those wearing the patches.

The trailblazer in this area of research is Trevor Paglen, who, in 2008, published the book “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World”. By the means of hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, he obtained and analyzed forty mission patches. From the book reviews:

“The iconography of the United States military. Not the mainstream military, with its bars and ribbons and medals, but the secret or ‘black projects’ world, which may or may not involve contacting aliens, building undetectable spy aircraft, and experimenting with explosives that could make atomic bombs look like firecrackers. Here, mysterious characters and cryptic symbols hint at intrigue much deeper than rank, company, and unit.”
—UTNE Reader

“Of course, issuing patches for a covert operation sounds like a joke … but truth be told, these days everything is branded. Military symbols are frequently replete with heraldic imagery—some rooted in history, others based on contemporary popular arts that feature comic characters—but these enigmatic dark-op images, in some cases probably designed by the participants themselves, are more personal, and also more disturbing, than most.”
—Steven Heller, The New York Times Book Review

Since the release of this book, new mission patches have been released that are as strange and cryptic as their predecessors. If these patches are meant to symbolize “the values of the crew and the objectives of the mission”,  perhaps we should be a little concerned. Here are the top 10 most sinister mission patches:

#10 – Alien Face

TENCAP is an acronym for “Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities” and is a collection of programs involving the cutting edge of warfare.

“The purpose of the AF TENCAP program is to exploit the current and future potential of existing national, commercial, and civil space systems and national air-breathing systems, and to provide these capabilities to the warfighter as rapidly as possible.”
– Source

In PSYOPS, “Special” almost invariably means “black” or highly classified. Does the “highly classified part” of the mission have something to do with the fact that the badge bears the face of an alien? The saying at the bottom does not help: The phrase “Oderint Dum Metuant” is usually associated with Caligula, the first-century Roman emperor whose name became synonymous with depravity, madness, and tyranny. It translates as “Let them hate so long as they fear.” Right.

#9 All Your Base Are Belong to Us

A giant angry dragon clutching the planet, bringing destruction from space. That’s a nice way to symbolize space missions. In PSYOPS symbolism, dragons typically represent signals-intelligence satellite launches; the dragons’ wing patterns symbolize the satellites’ massive gold-foil dish antennae meant to collect all types of information from earth. The phrase “Omnis Vestri Substructio Es Servus Ad Nobis” can loosely be translated to “All your base are servant to us”. This phrase does not make much sense, except that it vaguely states that the world is owned by those who made that patch. But this phrase is also reminiscent of a geeky 2002 Internet meme based on a poor translation in an old-school Sega game.

The biggest internet meme of 2002, a badly translated Sega game.

This allusion to popular culture is quite funny yet disturbing … I’m pretty sure they truly believe that all our base are belong to them.

#8 Hymn to Pan

The PAN satellite was launched in September 2009 and is so top-secret that no military or governmental organization claimed to have built it.

“A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket has launched with PAN, a classified satellite which will be operated by the US Government. The launch was on time, at the start of a two hour, nine minute launch window which opened at 21:35 GMT (17:35 local time). Unusually for an American government satellite, the agency responsible for operating the spacecraft has not been disclosed.”
– Nasa Space Flight

According to the patch, PAN stands for “Palladium at Night”, Palladium being a silvery-white metallic element that is probably present in the satellite. The mission is so secret, however, that it is jokingly said that the name PAN actually stands for “Pick a Name” (notice the subtle question mark underneath the rocket on the patch).

PAN is also the name of an ancient horned god important in occultism and that has a strange link with the history of rocket science in the United States.

The ancient god Pan, a nature deity with phallic attributes. Is it me or is the PAN mission patch also rather phallic?

Jack Parsons, a pioneer in American space propulsion who is often credited for having “propelled” the United States into the space age (a crater of the moon is named in his honor), was also a notorious occultist. He was a prominent member of the Ordo Templi Orienti (the O.T.O.), an occult secret society popularized by Aleister Crowley. Seeing no separation between his professional and his occult work, Parsons was known to chant Crowley’s poem entitled Hymn to Pan before each test rocket launch.

“Parsons would dance and chant poetry—most notably Crowley’s “Hymn to Pan”—before rocket tests.”
– Goeffrey Landis, The Three Rocketeers

Is Pan still invoked during rocket launches?

#7 Supra Summus

This is a patch for a NRO spy-satellite launch. Those familiar with this site will probably recognize this Illuminati 101 symbolism: An unfinished pyramid topped by the All-Seeing Eye. This All-Seeing Eye requires help: it needs spy satellites to be even more all-seeing.

“LMA” at the bottom right most likely refers to Lockheed Martin Aerospace, which is the ultimate Big Brother mega-company working with the CIA, NRO, NSA and IRS.

Above the All-Seeing Eye is written “Supra Summus”, which can be translated to “Most Superior and Highest”, which, if nothing else, indicates a healthy level of self-esteem.

Other NRO spy-satellite launches have also used similar designs.

NROL-32 Patch.

#6 Two Faced Shadow Guy

The 23rd Space Operations Squadron (23 SOPS) is a United States Air Force unit located at New Boston Air Force Station in New Hampshire. The patch of this mission features a creepy-looking figure in a creepy hood looking over the earth with creepy eyes, staring creepily at the American continent. However, that is not the creepiest thing in this patch. If you look closely at the contour of the black face, you’ll see another face, with pointy nose and pointy ears, looking left.  Who is this creepier dude within an already creepy dude? And what’s up with all the layers of creepy?

The saying “Semper Vigilans” means “Always Vigilant”. At least I can relate to that. But in the context of this patch, it is definitely creepy.

#5 The Grid

Are you thinking of selling your condo and your Prius in order to leave everything and “go off the grid”? Try it and this knight might slash your head off. It would probably be useless anyhow. Look closely at this patch: there is no “off the grid”. This patch actually depicts the “information grid” those crazy conspiracy theorists keep rambling about, complete with nodes at the intersections.

Defenders of the Domain is a subgroup of the NSA Information Assurance group and is comprised of individuals “who are on the front lines in developing the strategy, the concepts, the planning and the technical implementation in the Information Assurance domain. They are the true leaders in the world of Cybersecurity.” In other words, they monitor the cyberspace using the latest technologies.

The man with the sword is in the distinct dress of a Knight Templar, this ancient group of Crusaders that became an occult secret society. The Knight represents the descendants of the Templars, the modern Illuminatus.

#4 NRO Snakes

This is another mysterious patch of the NRO. The program associated with this patch is totally unknown. All we know is that it is represented by three menacing vipers wrapped around the the earth, making us all warm and fuzzy inside.  The Latin inscription “Nunquam Ante Numquam Iterum” translates to “Never before, never again.” What never happened before and will never happen again? We may never know.

#3 I Could Tell You…

You know that a mission is top-secret when not even an obscure symbol can be used to represent it. This patch was designed as a generic insignia for “black” projects conducted by the Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four. The Latin phrase “Si Ego Certiorem Faciam … Mihi Tu Delendus Eris” is roughly translated to “I could tell you … but then I’d have to kill you”. That is cliché phrase, but considering these are the people who actually created it, they probably don’t think it is corny. In fact, they’re probably dead serious about it.

Furthermore, there is a twist on the phrase. According to Paglen, the Latin phrase is worded in a peculiar way in order to refer to Greek and Roman texts.

“The Latin phrase Si Ego Certiorem Faciam … Mihi Tu Delendus Eris roughly translates into a cliché commonly heard in the vicinity of “black” programs: “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

But the phrasing here is unusual because it is written in the passive voice: a more accurate translation of the Latin would be “I could tell you, but then you would have to be destroyed by me.” By employing the passive voice, the patch’s designer makes two references that would not exist in other phrasings. The first reference is to the Greek god of Chaos, Eris, about whom Homer wrote in Book Four of the Iliad: “[Eris] whose wrath is relentless … is the sister and companion of murderous Ares, she who is only a little thing at the first, but thereafter grows until she strides on the earth with her head striking heaven. She then hurled down bitterness equally between both sides as she walked through the onslaught making men’s pain heavier.”

The passive phrasing of the Latin also echoes the words of the second-century BCE Roman senator Cato the Elder, who roamed the Senate repeating the words Carthago delenda est—”Carthage must be destroyed.” In 149 BCE, Cato got his way and Rome attacked the North African city, located near present-day Tunis. Three years after beginning their assault, the Roman army overran Carthage, tore down its walls, and sold its inhabitants into slavery. After the Roman Senate declared that no one would ever again live where the city had stood, legend holds that Rome salted the earth around the city in order to ensure that Carthage would remain a wasteland.”
– Source

So the badge does not contain a simple death threat: it also alludes to a “wrath from above” of mythological proportions, turning your city into a wasteland for generations to come. Now that’s a threat.

#2 Get Your Kicks on 66

The Minotaur program is composed of top-secret NRO spy-satellite launching missions. Minotaurs are bull-headed creatures from Greek mythology that are always angry, violent and merciless. Minotaurs bear many resemblances to the Middle-Eastern deity Molech, a bull-headed god with the body of a man to whom child sacrifices were made.

Molech

In this patch for NROL-66, the red Minotaur (as if hailing directly from hell) is holding a street sign of the mythical route 66. It is rather difficult not to see an allusion to the devil (who is often portrayed in red) and the number 666.

Furthermore, according to some occult researchers, route 66 was originally laid out to become a sort of “occult pilgrimage”.

“The famous old American highway “Route 66″ was laid out by Freemasons with the apparent intention of sending masses of automobile riders into a self-processing occult “trip.”

Route 66 began at the Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, near the site of the University of Chicago’s collection of Aztec ritual incunabula. It ended in Barstow, California in the Mohave desert, which is for the Freemasons, the cosmic graveyard of the West, the final destiny of Anubis, the celestial jackal, otherwise known as Sirius (see Giorgio de Santillana andHertha Von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay on Myth and th Frame of Time, p. 358).

If this version of Route 66 smacks of some medieval pilgrimage made more appropriately on a camel than by car, it is for good reason. Most of Route 66 was based on a road forged in 1857 by Lt. Edward Beale and his caravan of the U.S. Camel Corps.”
– Michael A. Hoffman II, Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare
So who is really getting their kicks on Route 66?

#1 The Devil You Know

This patch for NROL-49  depicts a phoenix rising from the flames with the flag of the United States in the background. The Latin words “Melior Diabolus Quem Scies” roughly translates to mean “The Devil You Know,” as in the phrase “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”. Cryptic. According to NASA, this saying refers to the return of the use of an old system after attempting to use a new one, which had resulted in failure.

“The mission patch for NRO L-49 shows a phoenix rising out of a fire, with the words “melior diabolus quem scies”, which translate into English as “better the devil you know”, indicating the return to the older system following the failure of the attempt to replace it.”
– Source

It is a rather odd choice of words for a governmental agency, but definitely on-par with this whole sinister, hellish theme going on with PSYOPS patches.

NROL-49 before its launch featuring its mission patch at the top.


Another patch related to NRO-49 depicts the satellite as a winged fiery being (referred to by NASA as a devil named Betty) who is holding a trident and a wrench.

“An image of a devil features on the launch patch. The old tradition of giving rockets personal names also appears to have been revived; Delta 352 seems to have been named “Betty”, and the Atlas V that launched from Vandenberg last year was named ‘Gladys’.”
– Ibid.

The patch shows the moon (or a comet?) partially covering the earth. If you look closely, there are letters in the detail of the grey astral body. What do they refer to? At the bottom of the patch, the Latin phrase is also enigmatic: “Primoris Gravis Ex Occasus”.  Primoris means “First”, Gravis stands for “important, heavy or serious” and Occasus means “setting of the sun, the West, or fall”. In other words, I don’t know what it means. “First heavy setting of the sun”? “The most important thing after the sunset”? “First serious fall”? Regardless of the exact meaning, there seems to be an emphasis on the concept of darkness. Betty is pure darkness wrapped in flames and is partially covering the sun. There is a grey celestial body moving towards the earth … and we’re still talking about a spy-satellite. Okay.

Honorable Mentions

There are many other patches giving a glimpse in the somehow twisted world of PSYOPS:

Wizards controlling the earth through magic is a recurring theme in PSYOPS patches. Is magick still a part of rocket launching like in the times of Jack Parsons and the O.T.O.?

What do the letters at the bottom mean? None of your f***ing business. No, I’m not being rude…that’s what the letters stand for.

Another NRO patch, one that pretty much sums up the meaning of all of the above. The spy-satellite is symbolized by an angry dragon clutching the entire planet with its four claws holding a diamond in its tail. It does not seem to preoccupied with our privacy and other petty things like that.

In Conclusion

Although it isn’t possible to know exact meaning of the symbols found in these mission patches, they still provide a rare insider’s look at the philosophy, the mind state and the background of the organizations creating them. Sorcerers controlling the earth, vipers surrounding the earth, angry dragons clutching the earth … this is how they perceive themselves and their work. My question is: Should we maybe be a little concerned? One could argue that these patches are meant to be menacing to America’s enemies. This could be true, but most satellites launched by the NRO are meant to spy on North America, hence the emphasis on the continent in many of these patches.

One thing is certain, mission patches are the most honest descriptions we have of these secret missions. Since most of the patches were not intended for mass exposure, they are devoid of public relations sugar-coating. The patches do not talk about “bringing democracy and the light of freedom to the world”… they show the world in chains and in flames, controlled by dragons and sorcerers, and their words threaten death and destruction.

The occult symbolism illustrated in these patches is also reminder that these organizations have relations to secret societies and are “in the know”. And those who are not in the know, the uninitiated masses, the profane, are not welcome.

“Procul Este Profani”: “Keep your distance, you who are uninitiated.”

 

 

 

 

 

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US-Saudi arms deal ripples from Iran to Israel

Posted by Admin on October 21, 2010

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – As American and Saudi officials spent months quietly hammering out a wish list for a mammoth sale of American warplanes and other weapons to the oil-rich kingdom, leaders in Iran were busy publicly displaying their advances in missiles, naval craft and air power.

In one memorable bit of political theater, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood under a cascade of glitter in August to unveil a drone bomber — dubbed the “ambassador of death” — that he claimed would keep foes in the region “paralyzed” on their bases.

The response by Washington and its cornerstone Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, moved a step ahead Wednesday. The Obama administrationnotified Congress of plans to sell as many as 84 new F-15 fighter jets, helicopters and other gear with an estimated $60 billion price tag.

The proposed deal — one of the biggest single U.S. arms sales — is clearly aimed at countering Iran’s rising military might and efforts to expand its influence.

But it ties together other significant narratives in the region, including an apparent retooling of Israeli policies to tacitly support a stronger, American-armed Saudi Arabia because of common worries about Iran.

It also reinforces the Gulf as the Pentagon’s front-line military network against Iran even as the U.S. sandwiches the Islamic republic with troops and bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In this way, Saudi Arabia does become some sort of buffer between Israel and Iran,” said Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Swedish think tank that tracks arms sales.

Israel has made no diplomatic rumblings over the proposed Saudi deal — a marked contrast to almost automatic objections decades ago to Pentagon pacts with Arab nations. It’s widely seen as an acknowledgment that Israel’s worries over Iran and its nuclear program far outweigh any small shifts in the Israel-Arab balance of power.

Israel is moving toward a policy of “pick your fights,” said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv.

“After all,” he added, “Saudi Arabia is not such a big threat to us.”

And Israel does not come out of the current American arms bazaar empty handed. Earlier this month, it signed a deal to purchase 20 F-35 stealth fighters that could possibly reach Iran undetected by radar. Israel has an option for 75 more.

“This equipment is primarily to give (Israel) a better feeling facing the Iranian threat. It is not related to Israeli-Arab relations,” said Inbar. “Ironically, in the current situation, Saudi Arabia is in the same strategic boat as Israel is in facing the Iranian threat.”

Besides the new fighters for Saudi Arabia, the U.S. plans to upgrade an additional 70 of the kingdom’s existing F-15s. State Department and Pentagon officials told lawmakers the sales also will include 190 helicopters, including Apaches and Black Hawks, as well as an array of missiles, bombs, delivery systems and accessories such as night-vision goggles and radar warning systems.

Congress has 30 days to block the deal, which was first revealed in September but has been in negotiations for months. U.S. officials say they aren’t expecting significant opposition.

Iran, meanwhile, has concentrated on its missile arsenal overseen by the powerful Revolutionary Guard. Its solid-fuel Sajjil missile has a reported range of more than 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) — within range of Israel and all main U.S. bases in the region.

Iran’s navy has staged war games in the Gulf and announced major additions to its fleet, including three Iranian-built submarines designed to operate in the Gulf’s shallow waters.

It marks the Gulf as a buyer’s market for arms, led by the U.S. as the dominant Western military power from Kuwait to Oman. Throughout the Gulf, Washington counts on access to Arab allies’ air bases, logistics hubs and the Bahrain headquarters of America’s naval powerhouse in the region — the U.S. 5th Fleet.

A report last month by the U.S. General Accountability Office said Washington approved $22 billion worth of military equipment transfers to the six Gulf Arab states between fiscal 2005 and 2009 through a Pentagon-managed program.

More than half was earmarked for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including a $6.5 billion deal in 2009 for the UAE to buy the Patriot missile defense system.

The UAE agreement was the largest single arms approval during the five-year period — but is dwarfed by the proposed Saudi deal.

The researcher Wezeman said Iran is clearly the top perceived threat for the Gulf Arabs, but there are background concerns about Iraq’s stability and the unrest in neighboring Yemen that includes Shiite Hawthi rebels and Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida. The Saudi military was drawn into rare fighting in northern Yemen starting late last year, using airstrikes and artillery to battle a Hawthi rebellion that was spilling across the border.

“Of course it’s against Iran. Of course it’s against Yemen,” said Wezeman. “You can read between the lines … but there are not any official statements about it.”

Wezeman’s group issued a report this month that estimates the eight nations ringing the Gulf — including rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia — accounted for 10 percent of all conventional weapons imports between 2005-2009.

The appetite was on display earlier this month when envoys from more than 50 U.S. defense and aerospace firms held talks in Abu Dhabi, where they were welcomed by the UAE’s minister of foreign trade at an opulent hotel on the shores of the Gulf.

As the American defense budget tightens, the Gulf’s deep pockets beckon.

“This is a critical time for our companies abroad as the U.S. defense budget continues to face pressures at home,” said a statement from Lawrence Farrell, head of the National Defense Industrial Association based outside Washington.

Jane Kinninmont, a Middle East and Africa specialist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said concerns over Iran are the primary motivation for the Saudi arms expansion. But she wonders how much the untested Gulf forces rattle Iranian commanders who are almost all veterans of the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

“I would not be surprised if the Iranians are pretty cynical about the armies here,” she said during an interview in Dubai. “To put it bluntly, they’ve fought a war.”

___

Associated Press Writers Mark Lavie and Aron Heller in Jerusalem, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Mattis New Centcom Commander

Posted by Admin on July 15, 2010

I’m sure the appointment of Gen. James Mattis, previously head of U.S. Joint Forces Command, to succeed Gen. David Petraus at Centcom makes sense somehow but his gaffes in past commands dismay me.  The video tells the story and the article below it amplifies.

Among them:

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know it’s a helluva hoot. I’ll be right up front with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you get guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil … guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Where is discernment here? Where is due process?  How does a crime perpetrated by some people translate into a death sentence for all people?

The clip of his speech is being shown throughout the Muslim world. Gen. Mattis moves into a position that depends on trust. I can’t say I’m optimistic about his chances of success.

It’s fun to kill in Afghanistan, says top US commander

By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent

10 July 2010

The Independent

http://tinyurl.com/3ae6svx

The US military, still recovering from the shock of the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, its top commander in Afghanistan – is facing fresh problems over revelations that another top commander declared that it was “fun to shoot people” in Afghanistan.

A video of General James Mattis making his comments was yesterday spreading through the Muslim world at a fraught time in Afghanistan for the US and it’s Western allies. General Mattis has been named as successor to General David Petreaus as head of US Central Command. General Petraeus is moving to Afghanistan after McChrystal’s sacking over derogatory remarks made about President Obama to Rolling Stone magazine. But General Mattis has yet to be confirmed by the US Senate. The general led the controversial US military assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.

The comments which have come back to haunt him were made at a leadership seminar in 2005. He said: “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know it’s a helluva hoot. I’ll be right up front with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you get guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil … guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, said that the remarks were made five years ago and General Mattis had learnt his lesson. But one senior American officer serving in Kabul, said: “This is not what we want to see happen after a very difficult time in the campaign. But we don’t think the Senate will block his appointment.

“The fact is people in the forces tend not to speak like bishops. We’ll have to make clear to Afghans that what he was talking about related to the Taliban, who oppress women, and certainly not Afghans and Muslims as a whole.”

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US MILITARY: A Mindset of Barbarism

Posted by Admin on February 8, 2010

The US Military: A Mindset of Barbarism, Part 2

by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Interview

photo

Uncontrolled

Yesterday, Truthout ran the first part of an interview with Dr. Stjepan Mestrovic, a Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University who has written three books on US misconduct in Iraq: “The Trials of Abu Ghraib: An Expert Witness Account of Shame and Honor,” “Rules of Engagement?: Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq” and “The ‘Good Soldier’ on Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq.” He has three degrees from Harvard University, including a Master’s degree in clinical psychology, and has been an expert witness in psychology and sociology at several Article 32 hearings, courts-martial and clemency hearings involving US soldiers accused of committing crimes of war in Iraq, including the trials of prison guards involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Dr. Mestrovic’s books meticulously document how the US Army, as an institution, has become dysfunctional, and how illegal rules of engagement (ROE) are issued by officers and politicians at the top of the Army’s hierarchy, but only low-ranking soldiers are punished for carrying out those same rules and orders. As an example, in one of the several hearings Dr. Mestrovic has attended as an expert witness, US soldiers openly admitted they had shot a 75-year-old man who had emerged unarmed from his house, but because the soldiers were following the rule to shoot all “military aged males,” neither they nor their officers were charged for that death.

In the second part of his interview with Truthout, Dr. Mestrovic examines the fallacious nature of the rules of engagement, Operation Iron Triangle in Iraq, the rampant nature of atrocities in the US military today, and the possibility of a solution. In Operation Iron Triangle, Iraqi detainees were murdered by US soldiers under the command of a legendary American colonel, Michael Steele. On May 9, 2006, American soldiers executed three unarmed men they had captured in an operation in the so-called Sunni Triangle in Iraq. Several of these soldiers were court-martialed and imprisoned, but some within the military say that responsibility ultimately lies with Colonel Steele.)

Truthout: What are your thoughts about the “Rules of Engagement?” How are these brought into being? Are they truly expected to work in the field? Given that they are clearly not working, why is that?

Dr. Mestrovic:There is insufficient information to answer the first question at the present time. The creation and actual wording of the written ROE are shrouded in secrecy. At the courts-martial of the accused soldiers in the Operation Iron Triangle killings, the government forbade the introduction of the actual, written ROE into testimony. It only allowed verbal testimony as to what the soldiers heard as to the ROE. The soldiers testified that the order was “to kill every military-aged male.” The brigade commander who apparently issued the order, Col. Michael D. Steele, refused and still refuses to testify and to be cross-examined, so that the question you are asking may never be answered. Presumably, he would know how the ROE are and were brought into being.

Are these ROE expected to work in the field? Again, there does not exist sufficient public information as to what commanders and Pentagon officials believe with regard to this and similar ROE in theory. But I can give you an answer that is concrete and specific to this case. On November 5, 2009, Col. Nathaniel Johnson testified at William Hunsaker’s clemency hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. Hunsaker is one of the convicted soldiers from the Operation Iron Triangle case. Colonel Johnson was one of Colonel Steele’s battalion commanders, and was the “convening authority” who sets the courts-martial into motion. I was an eyewitness to Colonel Johnson’s mesmerizing testimony. He testified that Colonel Steele had created a “toxic command climate” by constantly threatening to remove any of his subordinates, from battalion commanders to first sergeants, who disagreed or questioned his orders. Johnson gave the example that when Steele told the soldiers, “We do not give warning shots,” he would tell his men, “We do give warning shots.” These simmering discrepancies and discontent among the commanders clearly confused the soldiers.

Obviously, in the field, the soldiers encounter many problems in carrying out this ROE. What if the alleged target is holding a child or hiding behind women? In fact, such tactics are so common among the targets that the Army refers to them as a “tactical training point,” namely, that insurgents use human shields to avoid being killed. What should a soldier do in that situation? Do they give warning shots? Do they shoot to wound? Do they take prisoners? Do they carry out the order regardless of consequences? Common sense suggests that the soldier cannot be expected to act as a legal scholar in the heat of battle and debate or discuss what he should do. It is an open question how often situations like this arise in combat. But what I do know is that Colonel Johnson testified that the soldiers were confused, and he recommended that Hunsaker’s sentence be reduced to time served and upgraded to a general discharge so that he could use VA benefits to get treated for PTSD. The clemency board ignored his recommendation and offered no clemency or explanation.

These ROE do not work for the straightforward reason that the “targets” are not abstractions but are human beings who associate with women, children and civilians who are not targets. Therefore, one can rarely “take out the target” without also “taking out” innocent civilians. Moreover, the targets are pre-designated based upon “intelligence.” But in all the cases on which I have worked, I have found that the so-called intelligence was grossly inaccurate. In the Abu Ghraib cases, the government now admits that 90 percent of the detainees were not terrorists or insurgents and were not a threat to Americans. In the Operation Iron Triangle case, the government never determined whether the “targets” were real “bad guys” or just innocent farmers. Who are these secret “sources” that have the power to pre-designate targets for execution? Next to nothing is known about them or the process of using such “intelligence.” What is clear is that the local populations in Iraq and Afghanistan come to hate Americans when innocents are killed by mistake on missions of this sort.

But again, the Army is not a democratic society, so I do not foresee seminars, discussions or public airing of these important issues. These issues are covered up for the most part, and emerge – only partially – through the window into Army society that is offered through the court-martial process. On the other hand, the US is a democratic society and the public has a right to know the ROE that are being carried out in its name.

Truthout: What did you find in your research about Operation Iron Triangle that led to that atrocity?

Dr. Mestrovic: Well, that’s the problem: the killings were apparently routine and were not regarded as an atrocity. Soldiers told me that they were routinely sent out on missions to kill designated “targets.” Their graphic descriptions included finding a shopkeeper and killing him in front of his wife and children. The court transcripts also refer to testimony of “kill-kill” orders, which apparently mean that the target does not have the option to surrender (which would be a “kill-capture” order). In effect, a lot of the missions seem to amount to the “execution squads” that Vice President Cheney mentioned while he was in office. So, in the eyes of the Army, government and soldiers, missions of this sort were not considered “atrocities.”

What made this one episode of Operation Iron Triangle different does not seem to lie in the acts that were committed. As court documents show, at the same time that these particular soldiers who went to prison were carrying out their mission, a different platoon was carrying out a similar mission on another part of the island. The platoon leader, Lieutenant Horne, is quoted as ordering his soldiers, “Kill them all.” Nobody was prosecuted for any of these other killings on the mission.

So the question becomes, why were Hunsaker, Clagett and Girouard prosecuted and sent to prison? Part of the answer lies in the prosecutor’s opening and closing statements. Apparently, the Army wants to send a “message” to the world that it is better than the enemy. And it seems that one way it does this is to periodically send some of its soldiers to prison as a way of making the statement that it does not tolerate war crimes, even though the routine kill-kill orders may be construed as being war crimes. In other words, this particular case, and some related murder cases, appear to be politically motivated, and the soldiers who are picked for prosecution appear to be random, and are definitely treated as expendable by the Army.

In a similar case of killings that CNN dubbed the “Baghdad Canal Killings,” (hyperlink “Baghdad Canal Killings” with HYPERLINK “http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/11/17/army.tapes.canal.killings/index.html” http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/11/17/army.tapes.canal.killings/index.html) it is well-known that the entire platoon participated in the killings, although only three were prosecuted. One of the soldiers, Joshua Hartson, admitted to CNN that he thinks he should have been sent to prison as well, but instead, the government granted immunity from prosecution to him and some of his comrades to testify against the soldiers who were chosen for prosecution.

It is important to note that in all these cases, scores of “atrocities” are included in the court records but were never prosecuted. The real atrocities at Abu Ghraib occurred in the interrogation rooms at the hands of intelligence personnel, and some detainees were murdered, but the government went out of its way to exclude these events from the courts-martial. In every case I have studied, sworn statements report scores of atrocities similar to the ones prosecuted, but again, all references to these other events are excluded from evidence. There appears to be a definite, politically motivated, “social construction” of reality to issues pertaining to how acts are defined, prosecuted or ignored as “atrocities” and war crimes.

Truthout: How rampant do you believe instances like this are, in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

Dr. Mestrovic: Even though no one has access to the secret ROE or the secret ways in which they are devised, it is clear that ROE similar to the ones used at Operation Iron Triangle are still being used, including in Afghanistan. Numerous news stories report that the government is currently using drones to kill pre-designated human targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan based upon “intelligence.” These news stories also routinely report that women, children, and civilians are often killed in the process. The mechanical drones are used exactly the same way as human soldiers are used: to carry out the same ROE that applied to Operation Iron Triangle. Incidentally, news stories suggest that the drone operators who execute these missions while sitting in remote control areas in the US are developing PTSD rates faster than the soldiers who actually engage in battle.

It seems to be the case that we are supposed to be mesmerized by the “postmodern” technology that leads to the use of “simulacra” soldiers and missions. The “target” becomes an image on a screen. But real human beings are carrying out the same ROE, whether in face-to-face confrontations or “simulacra” remote control engagements. And the human toll on both the soldiers and the civilian populations is not “simulacra,” but is very real.

Truthout: What would need to happen in the Army in order for soldiers to behave more along the lines of international law whilst abroad?

Dr. Mestrovic: The most important thing would be for the government to decide to adhere to international law, and the soldiers would follow orders. In any case, the low-ranking soldiers always follow orders. It really comes down to following the letter as well as the spirit of the Nuremberg Principles. In his opening remarks at the Nuremberg Trials, chief US prosecutor Robert Jackson said: “The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.” I put emphasis on Jackson’s phrase, “common sense.” Even though he was a lawyer, he did not refer to the law, which often uses law-speak to justify such crimes. He referred to “common sense,” which resonates with usages of this term by pragmatist philosophers (William James, John Dewey, George Herbert Mead). In other words, everyone knows that it is wrong to kill people who do not show an active hostile intent, no matter how one justifies such acts legally. The “little people” to whom Jackson refers are, in this case, the low-ranking soldiers who were sent to Fort Leavenworth for carrying out the orders of many civilian and military commanders above them in the chain of command. It is a fact that not a single commissioned officer has ever been prosecuted for all the war crimes in the current war, from Abu Ghraib to Operation Iron Triangle. In a complete reversal of Nuremberg Principles, the government prosecutes and imprisons only the “little people” or low-ranking soldiers.

Jackson also specifically referred to the “men of station and rank who do not soil their own hands with blood” as the ones who should be prosecuted for war crimes. I do not foresee a day when the US will prosecute its colonels, generals or high-ranking civilian officials for establishing the policies and ROE that result in atrocities. There is simply no precedent for such a move in the US in the past century. The last time the US prosecuted a high-ranking officer for atrocities committed by his soldiers was in 1860, when it hung the commander of the infamous Andersonville Prison, in which Union soldiers were systematically exterminated by Confederate soldiers. But in other similar historical incidents, the government went out of its way to protect its “men of station and rank.” For example, the Biscari Massacre of 1943 was most likely the result of Gen. George Patton’s speech in which he told his soldiers to take no prisoners and to show no mercy. (In fact, General Patton’s and Colonel Steele’s speeches to their troops are very similar.) But Patton was not indicted, while a Sergeant West was given a life sentence and a Captain Compton was acquitted on the grounds that he was following Patton’s orders. Similarly, many historians believe that Lieutenant Calley was made to be a scapegoat for the “search and destroy” policies that led to My Lai.

In general, and despite its democratic base, the US does not resort to the established doctrine of command responsibility to prosecute “men of station and rank” whose orders result in atrocities. Again, this is not merely a military or legal issue, but a wider, cultural issue. In the recent Wall Street meltdown, the “robber barons” (as Thorstein Veblen called them) who caused the current economic crisis have escaped responsibility, and are rewarding themselves with bonuses. Meanwhile, many average Americans are losing homes, businesses and futures due to the errors in judgment made by the robber barons. The government bailed out the Wall Street firms, but not the average American in economic trouble. A similar principle seems to operate in today’s Army. Colonel Steele, whose ROE resulted in the Operation Iron Triangle tragedy, will no doubt retire with all his benefits intact. Meanwhile, the low-ranking soldiers who carried out his orders are languishing in prison. This American, cultural discrepancy between elitism and democracy has already been explored by sociologists such as C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite and White Collar.” But without some great cultural awakening, it does not seem that this strange feature of American culture will change anytime soon.

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