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Something about a headline that reads the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria invades Afghanistan, or ISIS takes another city in Iraq, rankles me and sets my teeth on edge. The reason is pretty simple: As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, the emergence of ISIS anywhere makes me feel like we failed.
When ISIS fighters run amok, killing with impunity --- in the very places where our brothers and sisters fought and died to prevent that exact thing from happening --- it is an indictment of the wars we fought.
In 2008, I enlisted in the Marines as a combat correspondent in order to cover war and pretend to be Pvt. Joker from “Full Metal Jacket.” I deployed twice to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines; first during the insert into Marjah in 2009 and again in 2011 to Sangin and Kajaki Sofla.
While overseas, there was an undeniable sense of purpose, but more than that, I felt invested in the outcome. The war was underway and we owed it to the American public, to ourselves, and to the civilian populace in Afghanistan to see the fight through.
But as I sit here now and read the news coming out of that corner of the world, it doesn’t feel like we made it better, does it? Not when the Afghan National Army is facing its heaviest casualties of the war. Nor does it bode well when Iraqi soldiers drop their weapons and flee ISIS. And now the militant group is allegedly recruiting in Helmand province, the Marine Corps’ old stomping ground.
It feels like a challenge, and I know I’m not alone when I say, “Bring it.” But, we can’t fight them anymore, can we? We’re not there anymore, not in force anyhow. America’s wars are over, and some would argue that it is for the best, but that doesn’t change how I feel about the battles that are still raging.
As a nation, we ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a bad taste in our mouth, and we seem to have adopted a “never again” attitude toward ground conflict in the Middle East. Like it or not, we are at least somewhat responsible for what happens in the lands where our friends and family members served, fought, and died.
It wasn’t the climactic, headline-grabbing end of an era, like the fall of Saigon at the close of the Vietnam War. It didn’t end with a bang, but slipped by and bled into the background. But, the fighting doesn’t stop just because we quit talking about it, and neither should our sense of responsibility.
As veterans, we are forever connected to the dusty roads, to the farmland that turns into a quagmire after it rains and sucks the boots off your feet or breaks your ankles when dry. The way the barren trash-littered alleyways of cities juxtapose with vibrant markets full of life and color. The little kids playing soccer on barren scraps of land. The landscape, the towns, and the people have become a part of me, and I imagine this is true for quite a few of my fellow veterans.
We pitched our tents and planted our flags in Iraq and Afghanistan. We took a stand and though the decisions leading up to, and during, those conflicts may have been questionable, we made a choice and invested $4 trillion of the taxpayer’s money and suffered nearly 7,000 American deaths between the two wars.
When I see their sacrifices give way to black-clad men with gleaming knives executing aid workers and journalists, it causes me to ignore my better judgement and instead long for ISIS militants to be put down in a hail of lead.
I’m not advocating another fight in the Middle East because I think its a good decision --- this is purely personal. This doesn’t have to do with sound politics, or what’s good for our nation at this time, or what sounds the best in a televised address.
I’d like to see a change in the news and social media feeds: No more “ISIS sweeps through name a place.” How about “ISIS hits brick wall called the US Military.” And who doesn’t want to see these genocidal dickbags try to take a fixed position from a Marine Corps infantry platoon? Let’s see them steamroll through that shit. Or watch them go toe to toe with some Green Berets? Or see their Ford “Danger” Rangers outrun a cruise missile.
I’m calling you out, ISIS. You troglodytes and your ilk give a bad name to the countless peaceful and compassionate Muslims the world over. You’re an amorphous and disembodied mass that sells war like sex to the depraved and disillusioned. You hide in digital back alleys and coerce the naive and lost. You take all comers, so long as they commit violence in your name. And you’re getting away with it. For now.
But, your number is nearly up, and though it's unlikely that American ground forces will be the ones to do it, others are willing to stand up to you. You have helped form an unlikely coalition, and with luck, they will hold together long enough to put a stop to you.
For those abroad, fighting against ISIS members, make them understand the fear they put in their victims.
The Islamic State’s fighters and supporters are evil and need to be destroyed. You can’t reason with that kind of bad, but you can take it out at 500 meters.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Trump: $6.1 billion in DoD money going to border wall wasn’t for anything that seemed ‘too important to me’
President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."
Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."
D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.
"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."