The Best Defense

Pentagon shutters program to help military spouses because it's too popular!

This is a great way to slap around military spouses: Start up a program to help them with college tuition, and then shut it down a few months later when it proves unexpectedly popular.

Not only are they rejecting new applicants, they left existing participants in the lurch on future payments. The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program recently has been re-started but still isn't accepting new applicants. Secretary Gates said the project could cost as much as $2 billion -- that is almost as much as one submarine or B-2 bomber. Which do you think helps national security more -- getting one more platform, or making tens of thousands of military spouses happier with their lot? 

It is almost like, hey, your husband is deployed to Afghanistan? You're losing sleep over IED fears? We'll distract you by giving you something else to worry about!

The logic of this is amazing: It turned out there was a huge demand for this, so we had to stop doing it. That's like taking a car off the market because so many people wanted to buy it. Time for a senior official to step up and make this right, first with a public apology. Congrats to McClatchy Newspaper for breaking this story. Les Blumenthal's article is chockablock with great quotes. Here is one, from Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.): "How they have handled this is infuriating. This is crazy."

This is just another reason why military spouses are so sick of lip service that praises their sacrifice, but fails to follow through by making their problems a top priority. Are you listening, Mrs. Obama?


The Best Defense

What’s happening down in Basra

Here is a note from a friend of a friend, in response to my query of last week:

By "Devil Dawg"
Best Defense Basra deputy bureau chief

I'm a military advisor down here in Basrah. The report you cited isn't entirely accurate. We did have three IEDs in the city over the last seven days; however, there were no mass arrests made in association with those attacks. One was a flash bang grenade tossed into a liquor store the other night. This is a fairly common occurrence around here as some of the more conservative folk don't take kindly to the bars and liquor stores that have sprung up along the Shatt downtown. Other establishments such as women's clothing stores and barber shops have been targeted in the past. The second was found and diffused outside the home of a local citizen. As of yet, we haven't been able to get the Iraqi Army to relay the significance of this particular individual and why he was targeted. Again, this type of IED is not uncommon as its an easy way to target a specific person (JAM has gone out of their way to not target random locals -- no suicide attacks down here). The third was your run-of-the-mill IED on ASR Topeka detonated on a personal security contractor convoy. As usual, the site was within view of an Iraqi Army manned checkpoint, yet they saw nothing.

The main perpetrators down here are JAM and various other SEGs. In my particular division, we've got real concerns about the level of infiltration by JAM members and/or sympathizers. The continued emplacement of IEDs in the immediate vicinity of Iraqi Army checkpoints further reinforces these concerns.  Luckily, these groups have been reluctant to target the Iraqi Army specifically. No combined patrols or convoys were hit by an IED in the last 10 months. The Iraqi Army were literally our best force protection. In a 48 hour period last month, however, two combined missions were hit, including one of our own.

As far as the mass arrests are concerned, as you probably know, that's the Iraqi Army preferred MO --round up everyone within a two block radius of an IED. When our patrol was hit with an EFP, they arrested six people who had nothing to do with anything, while letting the two trigger men walk because they couldn't or wouldn't search the area where we spotted them. Several individuals wanted for Article IV terrorism related charges were arrested this week, but none in conjunction with the three aforementioned IEDs. As one who closely tracks the Iraqi Army reported SIGACTs across the province, these are particularly hard to trace because rarely are the detainees being tracked by U.S. intelligence and the Iraqi Army are very reluctant to give us anything other than a name. Most of these people go through my counterpart's interrogation room and yet I rarely have access to them.

Christiaan Briggs/flickr