U.S. military

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Our nation’s founding fathers disagreed about many issues: slavery, the presidency and foreign policy. They almost universally shared a belief about the military: It was a necessary part of the “common defense,” but it had to remain small and strictly under civilian control. The founders detested the British soldiers forcibly quartered in American homes before the revolution, and they believed that bloated militaries had undermined good governance in Britain and other societies. For the founders, a democratic military had to come from the people, it had to remain subservient to Congress and the president, and it had to disperse as soon as it defeated its foes.

Our current arrangements for the U.S. military would be unrecognizable to the founders. Instead of a small military mustered only in extreme moments, we now have one of the largest permanent military establishments in the world, and Americans spend far more on the armed forces than any other nation. Our soldiers are no longer part of society at large; they are a professional force trained and educated differently (and sometimes better) than the rest of the population. The U.S. military is organized in the Department of Defense (created in 1947), with a civilian cabinet secretary and a military chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Although they loyally follow the orders of the president, they are now one of the most powerful political and economic forces in our country, influencing everything from industry and education to basic research and popular culture. The U.S. military is, in fact, one of the few government institutions that is widely revered among citizens.

This shift from the tiny military of the 18th century to the huge behemoth of today was probably unavoidable. As the United States grew, it needed a larger military. As the United States confronted more diverse and technologically sophisticated foes, it needed a more advanced set of defenses — including a wide array of nuclear, intelligence and special operations agencies. We cannot turn back the clock and return to the somewhat simpler world of the founders. Nor would most of us wish to do that. We benefit enormously from the wealth that accompanies modern American power.

A historical perspective on the military is important because it reminds us of two important things. First, American institutions of national defense evolved in response to specific threats and pressures over time. These institutions have served our country well, but they will only continue to do that if they adjust to new threats and pressures. Cheering for the military and thanking our soldiers for their service is appropriate, but it is not nearly enough. In a world filled with multiplying small groups that have the capacity to harm American assets and large states that have more powerful weapons, we must ask if our current military is designed appropriately to protect our current interests. Why do we build so many large and expensive weapons systems that are outdated before they even hit the battlefield? Why do we continue to send massive amounts of military aid to regimes that support terrorist groups? Why do we continue to underemphasize the kinds of nation-building activities that our military has found itself doing time and again in Afghanistan, Iraq and other dangerous conflict zones? A historical perspective on the military reminds us that internal changes in institutions, training and expectations are necessary for success, even when you are the biggest and strongest on the planet. 

Second, and perhaps more important, the growth of the U.S. military has meant trade-offs for American democracy. Enhanced security is necessary for freedom, but it can also undermine freedom. This was a core insight from the founders that we are wise to remember. Those of us who believe in a strong but democratic military should be forthright in expressing our concerns about the excesses of surveillance, interrogation and even torture that the U.S. military has perpetrated in the last two decades. The continued existence of a military-run prison for alleged terrorists, denied due process, in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, contradicts America’s basic tenets of freedom. And it matters to all of us because the powers used in these ways are not easily controlled by the elected officials who are supposed to manage them. A military that overreaches, out of the best intentions, imperils democracy. 

We need to talk about these issues, especially at our universities. As we enter a new set of wars in Iraq and Syria, we owe ourselves a serious analysis of what kind of military we need and what kind we should have in a democracy. Young people should play a vital role in this public discussion. You are the ones who serve in the military, and you are the ones who will live with the consequences. The founders were correct: Military affairs require vigilant civilian attention.

Suri is a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Department of History.

An Iraqi soldier stands guard as security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb attack in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Daily Texan recently published a piece by fellow UT student Dolph Briscoe IV which argued that the U.S. must “avoid becoming trapped in another dangerous war in the Middle East.” This mentality is pervasive in the liberal corporate media, with the New York Times editorial board praising Obama for his cautious “balancing act on Iraq.” There are three major problems with this conception.

The first is that the liberals completely misunderstand the roots of Iraq’s current crisis, which is the past 10 years of U.S. imperialism in Iraq (under both former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama). It is now widely acknowledged that every single argument the Bush administration made for invading Iraq was false: Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, al-Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq and Iraqis did not greet the U.S. military as a liberator but instead resisted it as an occupying force. However, Briscoe is wrong in stating that the Bush administration’s goal was “establishing a democracy in Iraq.” The leaked 2002 Downing Street Memo, a UK intelligence document, stated that “military action [in Iraq] was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." So the Bush administration intentionally lied to Americans and the world, an undemocratic action whose end goal certainly was not democracy. In fact, it was control over oil.

Following the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. set up the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern the country, and within a few months privatized the Iraqi economy with Order 39. This allowed foreign investors and international financial institutions to buy out Iraqi enterprises, including its massive oil reserves and keep 100 percent of the profit. Strategic control over Iraqi oil had been a goal of the U.S. foreign policy establishment for over a decade even before Bush - the Clinton administration kept Hussein’s regime in check with deadly sanctions against Iraq. The neoconservatives had been pushing for regime change since the late ‘90s and got their chance during the Bush administration after 9/11. So U.S. imperialism in Iraq has been and continues to be a bipartisan project.

However, the neoconservatives underestimated the will of Iraqis to fight back against this wrecking of their economy and the U.S. military’s brutal violence during the occupation. The U.S. invasion precipitated a massive Iraqi resistance across Sunni and Shia lines. As Iraqi journalist Sami Ramadani explains, there is a “powerful secular tradition in Iraq that transcends all religions and sects,” and this led to “millions of Iraqis - of all sects and none - [marching] in the streets, denouncing the occupation.” In response to this, the U.S. (and its later client-state under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) implemented sectarian policies that led to today’s divided Iraq.

This leads to the second problem, which is that rather than acknowledge the sectarian legacy of imperialism, the liberals (and neoconservatives) instead substitute Islamophobic logic. According to Briscoe, yet another “crisis plagues the Middle East” with no offered cause or context – according to the New York Times, the crisis is due to “Islam’s ancient sectarian rift.” In reality, the sectarian rift’s origins can be concretely located in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution, in which occupation authorities forced provisions that split Iraq’s governing structure along ethnic and religious lines, as part of the U.S.’s divide-and-rule strategy to control the flow of oil. As journalist Phyllis Bennis explained at that time, the lack of oil in Sunni areas “[insured] a future of impoverishment for the Sunni, secular and inter-mixed populations of Baghdad and Iraq’s center, and [set] the stage for a future of ethnic and religious strife.”

Briscoe correctly notes that these sectarian policies continued under Maliki, but its crimes are far greater than simply “[refusing] to bring Sunni Muslims into [the] government.” Before the rise to prominence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there were mass Sunni petitions and protests against this sectarianism - Maliki’s response was to escalate to violence, ultimately attacking protest camps and killing protesters. More importantly, Briscoe fails to mention that Maliki was supported by the U.S. from the beginning as a client-state. Even with the supposedly liberal President Obama, this relationship continued for reasons that Maliki himself explained: Iraq has the “world’s fifth-largest proven crude oil reserves,” and in 2012, it “surpassed Iran to become OPEC’s second largest producer of crude oil.” Thus, as with the “Arab Spring” in Bahrain and Egypt, the Obama administration was allied with the oppressive state and against the calls for democracy. To understand Iraq’s current crisis, this history must be acknowledged: ISIS and its violent methods only became relevant after the U.S. implemented sectarian policies and its client-state militarized the conflict.

Failure to acknowledge the backdrop of U.S. imperialism leads to the third problem, which is that the liberals’ misconceptions are deadly – this can be seen in the current Israeli siege of Gaza. First, the imperial context: In 1967, Israel proved its worth to U.S. geopolitical strategy by, in Noam Chomsky’s words, “[destroying] the source of secular Arab nationalism – Nasser’s Egypt,” considered a major threat because “it might seek to take control of the immense resources of the region and use them for regional interest, rather than allow them to be centrally controlled and exploited by the United States.” Since then, Israel has been a key stronghold for U.S. geopolitics.

So despite the lopsided destruction that Israel has unleashed on Palestinians, the Obama administration continues to support Israel’s military operations and falsely equates the Israeli and Palestinian death tolls. When the UN Human Rights Council voted on July 23 to open inquiry into war crimes in Gaza, the U.S. was the only country to vote “no.” In lockstep, the New York Times squarely blames Hamas’s comparatively minimal violence for Israel’s brutality and also falsely equates the violence against civilians “on both sides of the border.” Similarly, Briscoe states that Israel is simply responding “in kind” to Hamas rockets.

However, Israel’s relentless destruction of Gaza and the lopsided death toll are becoming increasingly hard for reporters to deny, even in the liberal corporate media. NBC News pulled veteran correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin from Gaza after he reported on the murder of four young boys playing soccer on a Gaza beach by Israeli gunboats. Mohyeldin was returned to Gaza only after public uproar. MSNBC fired contributor Rula Jebreal after her on-air protest of the network’s slanted coverage, such as having “90 percent Israeli guests and 10 percent Palestinians.” The facts in Gaza clearly support Mohyeldin’s and Jebreal’s outrage: Israel’s bombing and invasion have overwhelmingly killed children and other civilians, with likely war crimes including the bombing of hospitals, other medical facilities, mosques, schools, and Gaza’s sole power plant. Despite rhetorical flourishes by the New York Times about “bombardments … of Israeli population centers,” Hamas, a democratically elected governing organization of Gaza, has committed violence with comparatively minimal civilian casualties and damage. This says less about the atrocities that Hamas has committed and more about the scale of Israeli brutality. In either case, Obama’s defense of Israel is rhetorically on the grounds that “no nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders” – if the liberals actually agree with this on principle, they should fully support the Palestinians’ right to resistance.

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

Names like “Predator” and “Reaper” make drones seem like either nightmarish weapons of death controlled by unseen hands, or awesome tools of destruction to strike fear into our enemies, depending on what side of the argument you are on. But are drones infallible? Do they live up to their hype? An engineering team at UT led by  Aerospace Engineering professor Todd Humphreys revealed a glaring Achilles’ heel in drone navigation systems last June that could deconstruct their presumed near-mythical invulnerability.

As it turns out, drones do not use some esoteric location-mapping technique accessible only to the brightest aerospace and computer engineers; they use GPS — not much more sophisticated than the GPS in your smartphone — which receives radio signals from satellites in orbit around Earth and uses them to triangulate position. GPS receivers are vulnerable to manipulation by a technique called “spoofing.” 

Spoofing requires a transmitter no wider than your average desk top to send radio signals that are calibrated to match satellite signals in shape, though with slightly elevated intensity. Once the GPS receiver on the drone gets the new stronger signal, it will give this fake signal priority over its original signal, allowing the team with the spoofing device to trick the drone into going off course.

It is easy to see the initial implications of such a device. If terrorists or unscrupulous individuals were able to use spoofing to their advantage, drones would likely be rendered nearly useless, like blind airline pilots trying to make a landing. Worse yet, with adept maneuvering they could be used as blunt weapons, flying into aircraft and buildings on the ground. 

However, spoofing has limited effectiveness on U.S. military drones deployed overseas. Whereas your average American uses a free-form GPS system, the U.S. military uses a complex system of encryption to protect its drones. Thus it is unlikely that any terrorist group or criminal organization could get their hands on enough resources to successfully spoof those systems. 

Individual governments, on the other hand, do have the resources to take down a U.S. military drone in the right circumstances, and it is believed that Iran used a large array of spoofing signals to capture a Sentinel stealth drone on Dec. 4, 2011. If a country puts enough resources into it, even the most advanced drones in the world can be rendered useless by spoofing.

Drones employed by the highest echelons of the U.S. military and the CIA overseas are one thing, but those are not the only drones used in the US. Around 10 drones fly from Corpus Christi along the U.S.-Mexico border year-round, operated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. According to Humphreys, they probably do not employ the GPS encryption system used by their cousins overseas.  As a result, they’re open targets for spoofing.

Spoofing devices are not easy to make; the one used by UT took three Ph.D.s three years and $1,000 to build. But it’s getting easier. Through software-defined radio, Humphreys says that the difficulties in creating a spoofing device will become “a coding issue, not a radio issue.” As the technology spreads, it will be less about technical pitfalls than an individual coder’s ability to work the system.

At the moment, however, the U.S. drone program is state-of-the-art, and its issues are moral rather than technical. As the United Nations investigates the legality and civilian casualties incurred by drone strikes, and a previously classified Justice Department memo detailing the U.S. government’s defense of the drone program was leaked to the public, it seems like the drone program is becoming as much of a problem as it is an asset. Though drones might seem like the weapons of the future, we need to consider seriously whether their benefits outweigh their moral, legal and technical hurdles.

Nicholson is an archaeology freshman from San Antonio. 

Paul Theobald served in the Navy as an electronics technician from 2004 to 2009.

Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

There is constant, contentious debate in politics, especially these days. But even our politicians agree that our national debt is a problem that needs fixing. Today, it is somewhere around $15.8 trillion and climbing, according to usdebtclock.org. There are many contributing factors to the debt, but the U.S. military’s endeavors in the past decade have contributed a significant amount.

War is neither free nor inexpensive, and reimbursement is not guaranteed to nations who wage it. Over the past 11 years, the U.S. military has incurred costs from war that this country has yet to pay. Instead of raising taxes or cutting spending to pay for military action, we cut taxes and borrowed more money. These fiscally unsound practices are reflected in our multi-trillion dollar debt.

Yet somehow our military involvements have not been expensive enough. As a nation, we do not have enough skin in the game to understand the true costs we pay in blood and treasure. As a people, we do not fully understand our military endeavors’ cost to our society. Military action has not cost most of us as individuals enough to make us care, and the burden of that action rests on a minority. In our daily lives, we are sheltered from war and its deadly events. Less than 1 percent of Americans commit themselves to mortal danger abroad in defense of our democratic ideals and national security.

Our leaders, most of whom were chosen in elections with low voter turnout, do not appear to recognize or to address the causal relationship between defense spending and the national debt. Estimates produced by a study at Brown University looked at the post-Sept. 11 conflicts and placed the cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan close to $4 trillion dollars, nearly a quarter of the national debt.

To address these issues, I support the reinstitution of the draft. When the draft is reinstated, we will see a substantial rise in voter turnout at the very next election, scrutiny of defense spending and accountability in government. These changes will occur as a result of the redistribution of military recruitment demographics. Presently, a majority of military members originate from backgrounds with little opportunity or choices. I joined the Navy, serving in the engine room of a nuclear submarine, to earn educational benefits so that I could afford a higher education. The draft would introduce a new awareness of the impact of our military endeavors into more segments of our society. A draft would bring all aspects of war, including fiscal aspects, into our political discussions.

I am optimistic enough that reinstituting the draft will be the beginning of a solution to our military-fiscal problem and will suggest an additional option for alleviating a greater problem of a lack of democratic participation.

I’m talking about mandatory public service.

If we begin mandating that all young adults, after completion of high school, participate in a period of two years of civil service, we will greater engage citizens who, by virtue of their age, are newly endowed with the responsibility to vote. Positions in entry-level and low-skilled areas of certain governmental and non-governmental service and bureaucratic organizations could be provided at low wages to aspiring students. After participating in such a mandatory service program, the young adults would in turn receive substantial financial assistance modeled after the incredibly successful GI Bill towards a college degree, technical, vocational or certificate training.

It all boils down to this: The more engaged in the democratic process and informed about our government and its policies, the more active we are in voting. It is by voting that the individual is able to decide which leaders are accountable, what policies are sound and what leaders and policies deserve to be thrown out. An active and informed citizenry makes democratically elected leaders either perform efficiently or lose their jobs.

Theobald is a government and philosophy major from Austin.

Men stand next to blood stains and charred remains inside a home where witnesses say Afghans were killed by a U.S. soldier in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. An Afghan youth recounted the terrifying scene in his home as a lone U.S. soldier moved stealthily through it during a killing spree.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Charges against an American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians are expected to be filed within a week and if the case goes to court the trial will be held in the United States, said a legal expert with the U.S. military familiar with the investigation.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is suspected of leaving a U.S. base in southern Afghanistan, entering homes and gunning down nine children, four men and three women before dawn on March 11. Bales, a 38-year-old married father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington, is currently being held at a U.S. military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The shootings have further strained ties between the U.S. government and President Hamid Karzai who has accused the U.S. military of not cooperating with a delegation he appointed to investigate the killings in Panjwai district of Kandahar province. The Afghan investigative team also is not convinced that one soldier could have single-handedly left his base, walked to two villages, shot and killed 16 civilians and set fire to some of their bodies.

Syed Mohammad Azeen, a tribal elder from Balandi village, said Sunday in Kandahar that he and other villagers believe more than a dozen soldiers were involved. Other villagers said they saw 16 to 20 U.S. troops in the villages. It’s unclear whether the soldiers the villagers saw were part of a search party that left to look for Bales, who was reported missing.

Allegations that 16 to 20 people were involved in the killings are “completely false,” according to a U.S. official familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

In an attempt to prove there was only one perpetrator involved in the shootings, the U.S. military has shown Afghan officials footage from a surveillance video that shows a soldier walking up to the base, laying down his weapon and raising his arms in surrender.

Karzai said Friday that the video, shot by an aerial blimp above the base, was “not convincing” and accused the U.S. of not aiding Afghan investigators.

The legal expert, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, insisted that there had been good cooperation between U.S. and Afghan investigative teams and that Afghan officials had provided important evidence for the case.

The military denied the Afghan team's request to interview Bales because that would have violated his rights as an accused in the case.

The expert also said that U.S. officials were discussing the best way to compensate the relatives of the victims and those wounded.

Military officials have said that there were no operations being conducted in the immediate area around the time of the pre-dawn killings. Helicopter noises that villagers heard could have been Medevac choppers called in to evacuate five Afghan civilians injured in the shootings, the official said.

Three of the injured who were flown to Kandahar Air Field were under 10, the official said. It was the second time that one of the children had been treated at the air field for a gunshot wound, the official said.

The legal expert said charges were still being decided and that the location for any trial had not yet been determined. If the suspect is brought to trial, it is possible that Afghan witnesses and victims would be flown to the United States to participate, he said.

He declined to disclose details about the investigation, which is being conducted by the Army Criminal Investigation Division.

Army Brig. Gen. Lewis Boone, director of public affairs for the U.S.-led coalition and American forces in Afghanistan, called the shooting spree a “terrible and horrendous act,” but said the U.S. military could not jeopardize the case by disclosing details of the investigation.

“I cannot over emphasize enough how important it is in the U.S. judicial system that the facts of the case, the evidence and the circumstances are safeguarded to ensure proper judicial process,” Boone said. “Whether you are an Afghan or an American, I think you’ll agree that the most important thing at the end of the day is that justice be done.”

In Washington, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States said Sunday that he believes the alleged shooter will be brought to justice.

But Eklil Hakimi indicated that relations between the two nations have been frayed by the shootings and violent protests across Afghanistan that broke out after Qurans were burned at a U.S. military base. The two nations also are engaged in tense negotiations on a strategic partnership agreement that will govern the U.S. footprint in the country after most combat forces pull out by the end of 2014.

The ambassador told CNN's “State of the Union” that Afghanistan was working to define its relationship with the U.S. for the years to come, but acknowledged that “down the road, it's a bumpy road.”

An Afghan protester gestures towards a US soldier in front of the US base of Bagram during an anti US demonstration in Bagram north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012. More than 2,000 angry Afghans, some firing guns in the air, protested on Tuesday against the improper disposal and burning of Qurans and other Islamic religious materials at an American air base in Bagram north of Kabul.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. apologized Tuesday for the burning of Muslim holy books that had been pulled from the shelves of a detention center library adjoining a major base in eastern Afghanistan because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.

The White House echoed military officials in saying the burning of Qurans and other Islamic reading material that had been tossed in a pile of garbage was an accident.

But more than 2,000 Afghans protested the incident outside the Bagram Air Base that stoked rising anti-foreign sentiment and fueled Afghan claims that foreign troops disrespect their culture and Islamic religion even as the Americans and other NATO forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Demonstrators who gathered outside Bagram Air Field, one of the largest U.S. bases in Afghanistan, shouted, “Die, die, foreigners!” Some fired rifles into the air. Others threw rocks at the gate of the base and set tires on fire.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the books had been mistakenly given to troops to be burned at a garbage pit at Bagram, a sprawling U.S. military base north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“It was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials,” Allen said. “It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it we immediately stopped and we intervened.”

The Quran is the most sacred object in the daily lives of Muslims and burning it is considered an offense against God. The Quran is so important in the faith that Islamic teaching spells out how it should be handled, including directing anyone who touches it to be in a state of ritual purity. Muslims can only dispose of Qurans in very specific ways, including burning or burying those that have been damaged or corrupted to prevent God’s word from being defiled.

A Western military official with knowledge of the incident said it appeared that the Qurans and other Islamic readings in the library were being used to fuel extremism, and that detainees at Parwan Detention Facility, which adjoins Bagram, were writing on the documents to exchange extremist messages. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

The military official said that several hundred Islamic publications, including Qurans, were removed from the library. Some of the publications had extremist content; others had extremist messages written on their pages by detainees, the official said. The official said the documents were charred and burnt, but none of them were destroyed.

“We will look into the reason those materials were gathered,” Allen said. “We will look into the manner in which the decision was made to dispose of them in this manner.”

Allen issued a new directive ordering all coalition forces in Afghanistan to complete training in the proper handling of religious materials no later than March 3. The training will include the identification of religious materials, their significance, correct handling and storage, he said.

The White House also apologized, with press secretary Jay Carney saying it was a “deeply unfortunate incident” that doesn’t reflect the respect the U.S. military has for the religious practices of the Afghan people. Carney did not address details about what occurred.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta added his voice, saying he disapproved of the conduct. He promised to review the results of the coalition’s investigation to ensure that all steps are taken to prevent it from happening again.

In a statement, Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident and appointed a delegation to investigate. He said initial reports were that four Qurans were burned.

Early Tuesday, as word of the incident spread, about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the base in Parwan province. As the crowd grew, so did the outrage.

One protester, Mohammad Hakim, said if U.S. forces can’t bring peace to Afghanistan, they should go home.

“They should leave Afghanistan rather than disrespecting our religion, our faith,” Hakim said. “They have to leave and if next time they disrespect our religion, we will defend our holy Quran, religion and faith until the last drop of blood has left in our body.”

Ahmad Zaki Zahed, chief of the provincial council, said U.S. military officials took him to a burn pit on the base where 60 to 70 books, including Qurans, were recovered. The books were used by detainees once incarcerated at the base, he said.

“Some were all burned. Some were half-burned,” Zahed said, adding that he did not know exactly how many Qurans had been burned.

Zahed said five Afghans working at the pit told him that the religious books were in the garbage that two soldiers with the U.S.-led coalition transported to the pit in a truck Monday night. When they realized the books were in the trash, the laborers quickly worked to recover them, he said.

“The laborers there showed me how their fingers were burned when they took the books out of the fire,” he said.Afghan Army Gen. Abdul Jalil Rahimi, the commander of a military coordination office in the province, said he and other officials met with protesters, tribal elders and clerics to try to calm their emotional response. “The protesters were very angry and didn’t want to end their protest,” he said.

Later, however, the protesters ended the rally and said they would send 20 representatives from the group to Kabul to talk with Afghan parliamentarians and demanded a meeting with Karzai, Rahimi said.

The governor’s office in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan called the incident a “shameful move by some stupid individuals.”

Zia Ul Rahman, deputy provincial police chief, said between 2,000 and 2,500 protesters demonstrated at the base.

“The people are very angry. The mood is very negative,” Rahman said while the rally was going on. “Some are firing hunting guns in the air, but there have been no casualties.”

Police said a similar protest on Tuesday just east of Kabul ended peacefully.

In April 2011, Afghans protesting the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor turned deadly when gunmen in the crowd stormed a U.N. compound in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and killed three staffers and four Nepalese guards.

Also on Tuesday, NATO said four NATO service members were killed in southern Afghanistan — three in a roadside bombing and one in a non-battle related injury. The international military coalition did not give any other details about their deaths. So far this year, 47 NATO service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

Bronze Star recipient Benjamin B. Tada looks to the stage during a ceremony in honor of Japanese-American World War II veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team at the Washington Hilton in Washington on Tuesday. Nearly seven decades after Pearl Harbor, Congress is honoring Japanese-American military units that helped the United States win World War II despite hardships. (Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Kaster)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Japanese-Americans who fought in the fiercest battles of World War II and became some of the most decorated soldiers in the nation’s history were given an overdue thank-you from their country Wednesday when Congress awarded them its highest civilian honor.

Nearly seven decades after the war’s beginning, Congress awarded three units the Congressional Gold Medal. In all, about 19,000 Japanese-Americans served in the units honored at a ceremony Wednesday: the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military
Intelligence Service.

“This has been a long journey, but a glorious one,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii., who lost his right arm fighting with the 442nd and was one of the honorees Wednesday.

About 1,250 people attended the award ceremony at the Capitol. About a quarter of those present were former soldiers, now in their 80s and 90s. Hiroshi Kaku, originally from Hawaii, served in the 442nd and his older brother, Haruo, served in the 100th. He said he volunteered for the Army because he had something to prove.

“We wanted to show American citizens that we loved our country,” Kaku said. “We were born and raised here.”

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were viewed with suspicion. Nearly 110,000 were sent to internment camps. Lawson Sakai learned how much the world had changed when he drove with some of his buddies to the local Navy recruiting station and tried to enlist.

While his white friends were quickly accepted, Sakai was considered an “enemy alien” and could not join.

Sakai then watched as the FBI rounded up Japanese-American leaders in Los Angeles. When the federal government authorized the relocation of people with Japanese ancestry, a sister and some of his friends were sent to internment camps.

“We were blackballed,” Sakai said. “Basically, they took away our citizenship.”

Sakai’s story is similar to thousands of other “Nisei,” or second-generation Japanese-Americans.

Even as they fought in Europe, many Japanese-American troops had family members who would spend much of the war in U.S. internment camps.

Sakai served in the 442nd, which consisted of volunteers, about two-thirds from Hawaii and the rest from the mainland. The 442nd experienced some of the most horrific fighting in Europe and became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. In just 10 months of combat, more than 700 were killed or listed as missing in action.

Sakai, 88, was wounded four times and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He said the years following the war were difficult and that he often drank to deal with his memories. Now, he said, he’s able to take pride in his peers’ accomplishments and the subsequent congressional recognition.

“We certainly deserved the record that we produced. It was done by shedding a lot of blood. As far as I know, we didn’t give up an inch of ground. We were always attacking and the Germans were always on the higher ground,” he said.

The 442nd fought in eight major campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. One of the units attached to the 442nd was the 100th Infantry Battalion, which was comprised exclusively of Japanese-Americans from Hawaii who had been drafted prior to Pearl Harbor. They received the nickname the Purple Heart Battalion because of the tremendous number of casualties they endured.

While undergoing training, Susumu Ito would visit his parents and two sisters 200 miles away at the Rohwer Internment Camp in Arkansas. Despite the injustice of being forced to relocate from Stockton, Calif., Ito said, his parents took great pride in their son fighting for the U.S. military.

However, he ignored his mother’s request in her weekly letters to avoid hazardous duty. He said he wanted to be on the front lines, as did his peers.

Inouye was the final speaker. He already received the nation’s highest medal for valor, the Medal of Honor. He described the latest honor as heartwarming.

“More importantly, I’m certain those who are resting in cemeteries are pleased with this day,” he said. 

Printed on Thursday, November 3, 2011 as: Congress honors Japanese-American WWII veterans

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried poses for a photo with his book in Philadelphia

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — J.D. Smith came into being when a gay student group in upstate New York needed a speaker to talk about the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay troops. In the 16 months since then, he advised the Pentagon on the policy, became an oft-quoted media commentator on the topic and was a White House guest when President Barack Obama signed the bill paving the way for the ban’s appeal.

When the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy went away on Tuesday, so did J.D. Smith, the name a 25-year-old Air Force officer assumed to shield his identity as he engaged in high-wire activism that could have destroyed on his career. Even if no one asks, Air Force First Lt. Joshua David Seefried is telling.

“It’s all about leading now,” Seefried said as he prepared to come out to his superiors, put a picture of his Air Force pilot boyfriend on his office desk and update his personal Facebook profile to reflect his sexual orientation. “Those are things I feel like I should do because I guess that is what a leader would do. If we all stay in the closet and don’t act brave, then the next generation won’t have any progress.”

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, Seefried works in finance, oversees a staff of 20 and is attached to the 87th Air Base Wing. Twice this year, he was set to deploy to the Middle East, and felt conflicted when his orders were canceled only because going overseas would have put J.D. Smith out of commission. A handful of friends at work know he is gay. Only one knows about OutServe, the underground network for gay military personnel he co-founded last year.

Although he expects only a fraction of the 65,000 gay men and lesbians estimated to be serving in the armed forces to reveal themselves at first, Seefried will not be alone. On Tuesday, his organization’s magazine will publish an issue featuring photographs and biographies of him and 100 other gay service members. OutServe, which has grown to 4,300 members in more than 40 chapters from Alaska to Iraq, has had an exceptionally aggressive rise since its February 2010 launch. From the start, Seefried and a tech-savvy civilian friend, Ty Walrod, saw its mission as two-fold: to ease the isolation of gay service members and to educate the public about the price of requiring them to serve in silence.

Now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is history, Seefried is looking forward to handing off his leadership role. He will promote a book of essays by gay service members he edited.
But first, he had to make it through Tuesday without knowing how his co-workers would respond to his sexual orientation.

“You take a chance and you have to hope everything is OK. I think everything is going to be more than OK,” he said. “That kind of family-ness I see in the Air Force, that is going to be mine, too.”

UT’s Center for Electromechanics, along with Atlanta-based Center for Transportation and the Environment, delivered two hydrogen-powered utility vehicles to the U.S. military’s largest combat support agency. The cars have a much greater range than other vehicles of their type and use “the fuel of the future,” said program manager Richard Thompson. The team increased hydrogen storage and maximized efficiency in weight, volume, cost, safety and commercialization potential. To make the vehicle as efficient as possible, the team used high-energy batteries and a high-pressure hydrogen storage unit. The team worked together to build and test the vehicles, but UT’s center developed the high-energy battery that was essential for the creation of the vehicle. “[The Department of Defense is] very interested in the use of hydrogen-fueled transportation vehicles,” Thompson said. “They want to increase its efficiency and use.” The department has access to hydrogen, so they are looking to make extended-range vehicles. While most vehicles like this get 30 miles with full charge, the new one gets 300 miles. “This project took about 10 months from the beginning to when we delivered the vehicles to Georgia,” Thompson said. “They are beginning a 12-month demonstration period at the Defense Distribution Depot.” Research associate Mike Lewis said the project’s purpose was to increase the vehicle’s range and advance hydrogen technology. “The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency are being pushed by the government right now to start implementing hydrogen-fueled vehicles,” Lewis said. “There’s a mandate to push the technology more to being a commercial project.” He said increasing the range 10-fold is a significant improvement, and the vehicle will be used daily on Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. “Their maintenance people will use them to do their normal, everyday work,” he said. UT and the Center have collaborated in the past, and their relationship goes back 10 or 15 years, said Erik Bigelow, project manager in technology for the CTE. “CTE has been working with the Federal Transit Administration for about three-and-a-half years now,” Bigelow said. “CTE has been the main project manager and got if off the ground. We put the initial project plan together and we’ve been working toward executing that.”