by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Victoria Nuland, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States, has made a second visit to Sri Lanka within a few months. PriorMore
I was watching F9 (of the Fast & Furious franchise) and I was struck by one line. The Fast crew is working for the CIA now (who are somehow the good guys) and the bad guy’s plan is to “reboot the world order within minutes.” As if that’s a bad thing. As if this world order is anything but permanent imperial war. But that’s Hollywood for ya.
The Fast Crew then proceeds to trash random countries willy-nilly because that’s the world order. This is why I root for the villains in movies now.
The full line in F9 is, “if you take Aries and upload it to a satellite, then it’ll be a matter of time before someone can control any weapon system, traditional, nuclear, stuff we haven’t even seen yet, and just point it wherever they want.” Of course this is what the American government, who they’re freelancing for, already does. They already have massive weapons systems pointed wherever they want. And they have already used them to kill millions this short century alone. They have already dropped nukes on civilian populations twice, invaded multiple countries and constantly assassinate and torture people — including American citizens and journalists — at will. This is the system the supposedly rebellious Fast & Furious crew defends, against imaginary opposition. Even more horrifying, this is the status quo we actually live under.
Defending this world order is the general plot of every Hollywood blockbuster. Some villain tries to change the status quo and gets violently put down. The superheroes of Avengers work with a US government department and many of this scripts have to be cleared with the Department of Defense before they’re released. The core propaganda message is that the way things are is fine, and any change is evil and must be violently resisted. This also matches the general perception on the western news, which is that bad guys are everywhere and America/NATO just has to be bombing/occupying/sanctioning everyone all the time.
There is actually no reason for this in the real world, but in Hollywood propaganda there’s always someone trying to end the world, which is why all this violence and violent technology is necessary. American hegemony system is necessary because otherwise people would be pointing nukes at you. Nevermind that the system is literally America pointing nukes at everyone else, and making themselves less safe in the process. No, you should be afraid of, uh, aliens, or Russians, or Arabs, or literally anything but the violent empire you actually live under.
Once you spot the narrative it’s hard to unsee it, because this storyline is everywhere. It’s loosely the hero’s journey, except weaponized by history’s greatest villains. The White Empire has figured out the plot to Star Wars and now uses it to put down any rebellious thoughts. Hell, they get people to cheer on the CIA, which to any moderately observant person is like watching a film cheering on the Gestapo. People sit in the cinema cheering Avengers or whatever, but what are they actually cheering for?
Despite having superpowers, those ‘heroes’ don’t actually do anything to change the world. They don’t build anything or do anything with their powers to help the oppressed of the world. Indeed, they both fictionally and actually collaborate with the US government and military. It’s only the villains that have any ideas, and they get beaten to death for their troubles. That’s what you’re cheering for. Rebellion is commodified and made into a Hollywood dream state, for people to sit in the dark and delude together. Meanwhile the climate-choking, nation-destroying, soul-crushing nightmare of White Empire goes on and on.
As another example (I’m just going by movies I’ve seen, but you can choose literally any one), take TENET. The Christopher Nolan film is about a future devastated by climate collapse which decides to do something. They send technology back to effectively reboot time. In response, the CIA gets one of their agents to violently defeat the ‘bad guys’ (Russians and Indians) which actually means… continuing civilization on course to collapse. Once you unwind the radical time-shift of Nolan’s work, it’s a shockingly conservative film.
No one here is remotely concerned about fact that the Earth gets unlivably bad. Instead they violently reassert the status quo, so a billionaire white woman can drop her kid off at private school. That’s literally the emotional climax of the film, while the CIA agent murders an old Indian lady that was trying to do something. I liked TENET when I saw it, but now that I’ve deconstructed the plot, it’s the same as every other film. Someone tries to change the world and that person is evil and must be murdered.
In both TENET and F9, the people doing the beating down are diverse. Modern Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion means being included into Empire, not Empire going down. For the global majority, it is us becoming like them, not them becoming like us. Some day a black man will be James Bond, causing havoc in random countries, when what we really need is a Jemis Bonda, trashing England, toppling the King, and stealing our stuff back. But that will never happen. The players change but the song remains the same. Full speed ahead down a climate, cultural, and spiritual cliff. They’re letting colored people and women take the wheel just in time to take the blame.
Hence you cast a black man or a white woman in a role which could just as easily be a white man. It’s purely cosmetic change. The new colored or female characters are still doing the same things that the old white men did. The women in these action films are ‘liberated’ by being as violent as the men and the black men are working for the CIA. Fucking great. It’s just a new lick of paint on the old imperial war machine which always was, come to think of it, staffed by colored people.
This is of course reflects reality. Art shapes life and life shapes art, it’s hard to say where one starts or ends. Hence in the UK they have brown Home Office Ministers being even more racist than the white ones. You get black artists and athletes expressing paeans to capitalism, because it worked for them. The deprivation that so many celebrities come from is sold as inspirational, and an exhortation to ‘work harder’, as if we must all be the best at something rather than simply living in a decent world. As if this is somehow a good system and not some wretched version of the Hunger Games, forcing people to entertain or fight gladiatorial battles for the basic ability to provide for their families.
Cosmetically, more and more of these blockbusters look like a diverse world, while under the hood it’s the same old imperial logic. Power is good, anything that changes power relations is bad, and any violence is justified in preventing change. Hence in F9, the formerly criminal Fast crew is now working for the CIA, and this world order is just presumed to be good. Yet this world order is the single worst polluter in the world, occupies over 750 military bases, besieges much of the world, coups/manipulates everyone else, and for what? There’s no aliens, there’s no villains trying to kill everyone for lols. The imperial violence is real and the threats are made up. That’s Hollywood’s role, and that’s the dirty work that the decades of propaganda has done.
Today countless films (here’s an attempted count from 2016) work with the US Department of Defense Entertainment Media Unit to produce privatize propaganda. As the Pentagon itself says, “Production agreements require the DoD to be able to review a rough cut of a film, so officials can decide if there are areas that need to be addressed before a film is released.” Hence if you’re going to depict the American military (in a big way), you need to be working with the bastards, which Hollywood has no particular problem with. More perniciously, almost all blockbusters follow the narrative demands of empire, which is to show that there are constant threats requiring constant external violence. This is general the plot of every big film, whether it plays with DoD toys or not.
People literally watch movies cheering on the CIA, whose literal job is to murder, lie, and steal. This, to me, is like the Nazi-film-within-a-film of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Watching that we laugh at a movie glorifying Nazi snipers, but there’s literally a movie called American Sniper. Because of the relentless films, Brits somehow think they won World War II by retreating and getting bombed and Americans think that they were somehow the victims of the Vietnam War. History truly repeats as farce, and people are oblivious to it. It is far better to — as they did in Inglourious — light this whole wretched cinema on fire.
What Hollywood thus produces is propaganda for a genocidal, racist, and planet-destroying White Empire which has merely hopped capitals from Europe to America. The American state (which was much admired by Hitler) are just Nazis that won. And today victors don’t just writes the history, they film the propaganda. And so the narrative of empire permeates all of its blockbusters, and lubricates actual block-busting of human homes. And we sit in the cinema and clap along. But not me. Not no more. I’m with the villains now.
Many years ago I made a trip to New York to pitch publishers on a book about a murder case in South Vietnam involving the Green Berets and the CIA in Cambodia.
At one of my stops, a young assistant editor gushed, “I love your proposal! But there’s one thing in the story I don’t understand: How could we bomb Cambodia ‘in secret?’”
Well, I thought, that’s a stupid question: The Pentagon Papers, leaked decades earlier, had detailed all sorts of secret raids on North Vietnam. But the young person’s question, intentionally or not, dug at something more complex: How was it that both Cambodian ruler Prince Sihanouk and Hanoi, whose troops in Cambodia were the target of American B-52s, also saw reason to stay quiet about the devastating carpet bombing? I ended up devoting considerable space to the issue in my book, even though it provided only an introductory context to the case I was recounting, about the Green Berets’ murder of one of their own spies in Cambodia.
The 1969 covert bombing of Cambodia was the brainchild of Henry Kissinger and his padrón, Richard Nixon, both devotées of the dark arts. They knew that North Vietnam would not protest because it would require it to admit it had troops in Cambodia. Likewise, Sihanouk would stay mum because he’d allowed them to gather there.
Sounds clever until the butcher’s bill is added up. The bombing of Cambodia would not shorten the Vietnam War, but expand it, killing an estimated 150,000 civilians over four years, fueling the rise of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, toppling the Sihanouk regime and eventually prompting a North Vietnamese invasion that solidified communist control of Indochina.
Had Kissinger been more properly labeled a case officer than diplomat, his risk-versus-take record in this and other arenas would score him a walking disaster, no matter his heralded diplomatic skills in regard to China and Russia. At heart, he was a ruthless, amoral operator, no different in effect than his predecessors in the White House and CIA who engineered coup d’etats and assassination plots from Guatemala to Cuba, to the Congo and beyond.
Take Chile: In the autumn of 1970, “Kissinger supervised covert operations—codenamed FUBELT—to foment a military coup that led directly to the assassination of Chile’s commander-in-chief of the Army, General René Schneider,” according to CIA documents unearthed by the privately run National Security Archive. It flopped. After the socialist Salvador Allende was inaugurated, “Kissinger personally convinced Nixon … to authorize a clandestine intervention” to create the conditions for Allende’s overthrow. It succeeded on September 11, 1973, when a coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet ousted and killed Allende, but the widely suspected U.S. hand in the events further damaged U.S. standing in the world, handed Moscow and Beijing propaganda windfalls and hardened the determination of liberation movements from South Africa to El Salvador.
At home, revelations of Kissinger’s demand that the FBI illegally wiretap his own aides in a search for leakers—operating as his own counterintelligence agent—further despoiled him and the Nixon administration.
Abroad, his “realist” approach to backing despots over reformers led to setbacks and bloodbaths, from Cambodia to East Timor, East Pakistan to Iran, Egypt to Argentina, to the whole of Central America and onto the streets of Washington, D.C. itself, where Chile’s secret police brazenly assassinated a prominent opponent in exile, Orlando Letelier.
Some record that is. JFK fired Allen Dulles for far less. Yet Kissinger, the operator, is still with us, a “towering” figure in a crumbling Washington establishment that abides by his cynicism and relishes his bon mots. On Tuesday he turned 100, but his legacy remains very alive in the secret raids and drone strikes carried out by the U.S. from Syria to Somalia, Kabul and far beyond, unconstrained by a timorous Congress.
“You can trace a line from the bombing of Cambodia to the present,” Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow, recently told journalist Nick Turse, who’s carried out numerous investigations of Indochina atrocities. “The covert justifications for illegally bombing Cambodia became the framework for the justifications of drone strikes and forever war…”
All this gave me reason today to revisit my 1992 book, A Murder in Wartime. Its underlying theme was the thuggery that had infiltrated the minds of the men conducting the long war and turned U.S. troops into natural born killers. You can do that to a man with enough time, brutality and weapons. But it starts at the top.
God forbid that Henry Kissinger find a final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. He deserves no rest at all.
Plans are underway to establish a dedicated ‘Social Intelligence Unit’ aimed at safeguarding children and young individuals, according to State Minister of Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon. The minister highlighted the recent alarming incidents involving teenagers and stressed the importance of implementing measures to protect the future generation. The formation of this unit will be pursued in collaboration with schools across the country to ensure the safety and well-being of children.
In a visit to the Sri Lanka Police College in Kalutara, State Minister Tennakoon expressed the need for timely reforms in the National Cadet Corps (NCC) and emphasized the necessity of extending its reach to rural youth in the North and East provinces. The minister called for a comprehensive replacement of outdated models, citing inefficiencies and the lack of crucial qualities such as personality, practicability, knowledge, and leadership among young graduates.
During the visit, State Minister Tennakoon acknowledged the contributions of the Sri Lanka Police College and urged all police ranks to work together in shaping a bright future for upcoming generations. The event included a ceremonial Guard of Honour, a tree-planting gesture, and the presentation of a memento to mark the occasion.
In commemoration of Ranaviru month, a time dedicated to honouring the sacrifices made by military and police personnel for the country, we turn our attention to a remarkable story of resilience and compassion. Today, we shine a light on “Anchorage,” a permanent home for two critically wounded sailors located at Walisara, Sri Lanka. This facility serves as a sanctuary for naval personnel who have sustained severe disabilities in the line of duty.
Anchorage, an exquisite eco-friendly building constructed by the Navy Civil Engineers, stands proudly adjacent to the Aqua Golf Driving Range, providing a scenic view of the lake. It was made possible through generous funding by the SLN Seva Wanitha Unit and was officially inaugurated by the then Navy Commander, Admiral Piyal De Silva, on July 1, 2020.
This sanctuary is now home to two sailors who were wounded in separate incidents while bravely serving their nation. Leading Seaman (SBS) B M R K Basnayaka, a member of the elite Special Boats Squadron, suffered critical injuries on November 10, 1995, during an operation off Illankanthai, Trincomalee. Petty Officer M D N W Piyasingha of the Fast Attack Craft Squadron, also critically wounded, endured his injuries on September 16, 2001, off Point Padró, Jaffna. Both sailors, due to spinal injuries, have lost mobility below the waist and require assistance in their daily activities.
Tragically, as these sailors fought to defend their country, they also had to face the loss of their parents. Being bachelors and with their siblings’ children growing up and venturing into their own lives, the sailors found it increasingly challenging to manage on their own. Recognizing their plight, the Sri Lanka Navy took the noble initiative of constructing Anchorage, a safe haven where these war heroes could receive the care and support they deserve until their last days. The Navy’s dedication and compassion deserve applause.
The devoted staff at Anchorage ensures that both WIA sailors receive daily exercises, physiotherapy sessions, necessary medical care, and assistance with daily routines. They also arrange short trips for them in a specially designed van, allowing them to visit their relatives on a monthly basis. Additionally, the sailors are provided with proper nutrition and remuneration, but it is the appreciation and support from the community that truly motivates them to live fulfilling life.
As we observe Ranaviru month, let us remember and honour the sacrifices made by our military and police personnel. Anchorage stands as a testament to the enduring gratitude we owe to those who have selflessly served our nation, ensuring the peace and security we enjoy today.
‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.’ — Mother Teresa
My mobile phone rang a few years back when I was chief of defence staff. It’s a number I have not saved. I answered the call. A faint voice of a young child on the other end. “Sir I am Wikum, Son of Chief Petty Officer K G Shantha.” Yes Son! I replied. Late Chief Petty Officer KG Shantha was from elite Special Boats Squadron (SBS), the Naval Commando Unit who paid the supreme sacrifice out at sea in Point Pedro on 1st Nov 2008.
His wife was four months pregnant when Shantha died. This child never saw his father alive.
“Sir, I have a good news for you. I have passed the Grade 5 Scholarship exam with 165 marks.” The child continues, “My mother wants me to convey this news to you and all other SBS members.”
“Well done son! All SBS uncles will be very happy with your achievement. Please visit my office with your mother this week after school. I have a small gift for you” I said. It is always a delightful news to hear our fallen War Heroes Children doing well in their lives. The void created by the loss of their fathers always affects them. In that sense, young Wikum’s achievement is remarkable. Sitting in my office, my mind ran back to 2008.
Our Navy outmanoeuvring and destroying LTTE Sea tiger boats at rapid phase by mid-2008. All their ocean-going capabilities were destroyed and littoral battles were intense and deadly. To save their pride and capabilities, LTTE Sea-Tigers turned towards their ultimatum weapon out at sea, the suicide boats. Navy response with our small boats Squadrons of SBS and Rapid Action Boats Squadron (RABS) was very effective against this huge Suicide Boats threat.
On 1st Nov 2008 early hours, a Sea battle erupted between Navy and Sea-Tigers off Point Pedro. A number of LTTE Boats were destroyed and Navy also had casualties. Petty Officer KG Shantha from SBS, was commanding the Arrow boat Z-142. He had three more SBS members on board. His boat was fitted with a 23mm gun which they used very effectively against the enemy. (When you fight out at sea there is no cover. Whoever fires effectively first will win the battle.)
By 05.45 AM, KG (Shantha) had all three of his crew injured due to enemy fire. Squadron Commander ordered him to withdraw to the harbour. When he is about to move back, he saw one LTTE boat moving fast towards P 164 (Inshore Patrol Craft) commanded by Lt (SBS) Wickramasinghe. P164 had twelve SBS personnel onboard. By shape and speed, KG identified it as an LTTE Suicide boat. No time to wait. He knew the danger. He decided and acted as per the greatest traditions of SBS, sacrifice own life to protect your senior officer and buddies.
He rammed the LTTE Suicide boat with his craft. Huge explosion! Both LTTE Suicide boat and KG’s boat perished into thin air……
Petty Officer (SBS) KG Shantha was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer posthumously. His wife who was four months pregnant then and informed of her beloved husband’s loss. No funeral was taken place as nothing of his body recovered due to 500 Kg Suicide boat explosion. KG was later awarded Parama Weera Vibushanaya (PWV), the highest Gallantry medal of Sri Lanka. He became one of the two naval personnel awarded with this highest Gallantry medal.
In 2011, house for KG’s wife and family was constructed by the Naval Civil Engineering Department with funds given by former First Lady, Mrs. Shiranthi Wickremasinghe Rajapaksa in memory of her late father Commander EP Wickremasinghe of Royal Ceylon Navy/Sri Lanka Navy, former Chief of Staff (Operations) of Sri Lanka Navy.
KG’s Son was admitted to Royal College, Colombo 7. Distance from his home to Royal College was too far for the young child to travel.
On my request, former Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka gave a House temporarily at the new Housing scheme in Mandawila, which eased the burden of long travelling and allowing enough time for the child to attend to his studies and extra classes.
When Wikum came to my office with his mother to collect his gift, he brought a letter written in his beautiful handwriting, thanking Minister Partali for the gesture which helped him to do his studies well. I recollect Minister was an Electrical Engineer from Moratuwa University and got the Island’s best results in G C E Advanced Level Examination on Science stream from Kalutara district.
I learnt what is gratitude from this young War Hero’s Son.
I gave him the advice which my father gave me when I passed Navodhaya scholarship in grade Seven in Royal College, Colombo 7.
“Good, better, best – do not rest until your good is Better and better is best”
The spate of unfortunate accidents which are happening regularly Indian military aviation with the loss of highly trained combat pilots appears to have left the national as well as military leadership unmoved.
Accidents do happen, but the regularity with which these are occurring in India’s military aviation sector should have raised alarms and emergency remedial actions.
Yet what is concerning is that the services and the Ministry of Defence are continuing with BUA or business as usual approach.
India lost the seniormost military commander Chief of the Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, and his wife with staff in a helicopter accident in December 2021, which should have led to a review of the entire aviation procedures from design to maintenance and flying given the high impact incident.
Yet continued occurrence of flying accidents leads to the conclusion that even, this has yet to lead to an improvement in this critical operational readiness criteria of the services.
Military Aviation – Significance
The military aviation sector in India includes flying machines with the Army, Navy, IAF and Coast Guard, combat support, and logistics with fixed and rotary wing components.
Aviation is seen as a sword arm in modern armed forces providing invaluable strategic advantages – both combat and logistics – witness the evacuation of C 17 and C 130 J from Sudan in the last week of April.
While the use of combat air power may be limited during peacetime, readiness for war through training involves regular flying.
On the support front military aviation is active 365 days a year, supporting the armed forces deployed on extremely high altitudes, such as the Bana Post in Siachen or on the high seas.
Despite the deficit in combat fighter aircraft segment India has a large fleet of fighters, transport, reconnaissance and surveillance assets in the fixed-wing and rotary-wing segments.
Regular upgrades, replacements, servicing, maintenance and pre flying checks are thus an important part of ensuring operational readiness of this large fleet.
A MiG-21 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed on May 08 as per a Ministry of Defence Press Release, while on a routine operational training sortie from the Air Force Station at Suratgarh. The pilot experienced an onboard emergency, following which he attempted to recover the aircraft as per existing procedures but failed and thus initiated an ejection, sustaining minor injuries in the process. The pilot was recovered from about 25 kilometres North East of Suratgarh’s base.
The aircraft wreckage, which fell on a house in Bahlol Nagar in Hanumangarh District, led to the loss of three lives, as per the Ministry of Defence release.
Ironically the accident happened on the day Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated the Indian Air Force (IAF) Heritage Centre in Chandigarh on May 08, 2023, which is said to be an embodiment of IAF’s rich history and legacy.
The Indian Army grounded the ‘Dhruv’ advanced light helicopters (ALHs) after a crash on May 04 which, as per the Times of India, is one amongst many in the 300 odd platforms of this helicopter operated by the three services – Army, IAF, Navy as well as the Coast Guard. The May 04 crash resulted in the death of one technician while the pilots were injured in a precautionary landing. This occurred in a rugged terrain in the Jammu region in Kishtwar.
Jammu-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Devender Anand said, “At about 1115 hours (11.15am), an Army Aviation ALH Dhruv helicopter on an operational mission made a precautionary landing on the banks of Marua river in the Kishtwar region.” He added: “As per inputs, the pilots had reported a technical fault to the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and proceeded for a precautionary landing. Due to the undulating ground, undergrowth and unprepared landing area, the helicopter apparently made a hard landing.” Soon after the incident, army rescue teams were rushed to the site. “Two pilots and a technician were on board. All three injured personnel were evacuated to Command Hospital, Udhampur, where the technician Pabballa Anil succumbed to his injuries,” said Col Anand was quoted by multiple media sources.
In October 2022, an army Rudra helicopter, an armed version of ALH Dhruv, crashed in Arunachal Pradesh, killing all five personnel on board.
On March 08, an Indian Navy ALH ditched into the Arabian Sea following unexplained loss of power, which had led to the grounding of the fleet.
Around 55 military personnel have lost their lives in over 50 aircraft and helicopter accidents in over five years as per the Times of India.
The old MiG-21 jets and the Cheetah/Chetak helicopters have recorded an alarming crash record over the years, while the Dhruv ALH is also not far behind.
Common Causes of Accidents
The Indian Air Force is holding five squadrons of the 1960s vintage MiG 21 which have been upgraded several times and are due for discard, but some are continuing for number plating squadrons in the IAF given the drastic fall from the required 42 to 29-31 or so.
As per the Times of India Indian Army holds 181 ALH, including over 60 ‘Rudra’, which are armed, the Indian Air Force 75, Indian Navy 23 and the Indian Coast Guard 18. These have reportedly been grounded twice since October last year.
Vintage of the aircraft in the case of MiG 21, lack of modern avionics and safety features, inadequate training and supervision of pilots as well as technicians, poor maintenance and overhaul practices, and lack of quality control on spares are said to be the cause of a large number of accidents.
In the case of the Dhruv, failure of power to the rotors has been one of the major deficits, while metallurgy is another. However, Hindustan Aeronautics officials have been quoted by Times of India to say that “ALHs have clocked a collective total of over 3.9 lakh flying hours, with the number of accidents per one lakh hours of flying “being lower than international standards”.
The HAL officials ascribe the crashes to poor maintenance.
What Needs to be Done?
In the case of the MiG 21, fleet replacement is an ongoing process. The Tribune has reported that the IAF has called for expediting delivery of LCA Mk 1A and increase the production from 16 to 24 per year. India has an ambition to export the LCA – if that is so, the production rate will have to go up to even 36 or more.
The Light Utility Helicopter programme for the three services numbering over 500 machines is yet to get off the ground. Occasional information drips to suggest that the process is ongoing satisfies the layman, but the industry, as well as the services, have to push the pedal and “bell the cat,” if required, that is, knock at the doors of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Whether this criticality of deficiencies in the military aviation sector were taken up at the Combined Commanders Conference, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bhopal from March 20 to April 01, is not clear. The issue is certainly essential to be flagged to the Prime minister by the military leadership.
Quality spares and maintenance procedures with accountability also assume importance given the vintage fleet and possibly some design faults. Spares will be an issue for the vintage Russian aircraft with a deficit that has already come to notice.
Fixing accountability assumes an importance which can occur only if thorough inquiries involving representatives of all agencies are carried out, and the fault is identified and rectified after responsibility is ascribed to the delinquents.
There are multiple vectors that have to be addressed – acceptance for improvement in this critical domain will be the first step for sustained commitment for reforms in the production of combat platforms and spares and ensuring stringent maintenance drills and checks.
The month of May has arrived but without the long-awaited Ukrainian “counteroffensive”. The western media is speculating that it may come by late May. There is also the spin that Kiev is judicious to “buy time.”
The chances of Ukraine making some sort of “breakthrough” in the 950-km long Russian frontline cannot be ruled out but a Russian counteroffensive is all but certain to follow. An open-ended war will not suit Western powers.
Last week, NATO’s top commander, US Army General Christopher Cavoli stated that the Russian army operating in Ukraine is larger than when the Kremlin launched its special military operation and the Ukrainians “have to be better than the Russian force they will face” and decide when and where they will strike.
Cavoli said Russia has strategic depth in manpower and has only lost one warship and about 80 fighters and tactical bombers in an air fleet numbering about 1,000 so far. The general gently contradicted Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chief of General Staff Gen. Mark Milley who have been propagating that Russia is on the brink of defeat.
Speaking at the House panel on Wednesday, Gen. Cavoli said, “This war is far from over.” On Thursday, he went further to tell the Senate, “I think [the Russians] can fight another year.” At the House hearing, Cavoli also said Russian submarine activity has only picked up in the North Atlantic since the beginning of the war and none of the Kremlin’s strategic nuclear forces have been affected by operations in Ukraine.
He said at one point in his written testimony, “Russian air, maritime, space, cyber, and strategic forces have not suffered significant degradation in the current war. Moreover, Russia will likely rebuild its future Army into a sizeable and more capable land force… Russia retains a vast stockpile of deployed and non-deployed nuclear weapons, which present an existential threat to the US.”
Clearly, the entire narrative of lies and obfuscation created by the neocons in the Biden Administration through the past year has unravelled. The balance sheet shows there is nothing to justify the massive amount of aid to Ukraine through the past one-year period — in excess of $100 billion dollars, which is pro rata vastly more than what the US had spent in the twenty years of war in Afghanistan.
Gen. Cavoli’s testimony came soon after the leaked Pentagon documents recently, which has presented a grim picture of the state of Kiev’s military preparedness and the Biden Administration’s lack of confidence in the Zelensky regime.
The Pentagon documents echoed, in effect, a January study titled Avoiding a Long War by the RAND Corporation, which recommended that “the paramount US interest in minimising escalation risks should increase the US interest in avoiding a long war (in Ukraine). In short, the consequences of a long war — ranging from persistent elevated risks to economic damage — far outweigh the possible benefits.”
Indeed, it appears that there is a significant stream of dissenting opinion within the US security and defence establishment, which estimates that President Biden has taken the US on a disastrous policy trajectory that is fated to have a calamitous outcome — a humiliating defeat in Ukraine that may damage the NATO alliance, weaken the transatlantic system and erode the US’ credibility as a global power.
Well-informed veterans of the US intelligence community regard the leaking of Pentagon documents itself as a mini-mutiny. The former CIA analyst Ray McGovern told China’s CGTN, “I believe it could be that some senior policymakers in the Pentagon at the highest reaches of the Department of Defence have decided, ‘You know, it’s a fool’s errand in Ukraine. Maybe, we got to get out the truth. Maybe, we got to expose people like Joint Chief of Staff Milley and Secretary Austin for the lies they have told about Ukrainian progress and Russians being just pulverised. And, maybe, that will stop this widening of the war.’ ”
The well-known former CIA analyst Larry Johnson shares the same view. He wrote: “This looks like a controlled, directed leak… the leaked material is not random intelligence material. It is designed to tell several stories. The most prominent is the deterioration of Ukrainian capabilities and the major obstacles confronting the United States and the rest of NATO in supplying badly needed air defence, artillery shells, artillery pieces and tanks. In other words, Ukraine is going to crash and burn.”
Johnson added, “Let me suggest one possibility for this leak — create a predicate for forcing Joe Biden from office. The revelations in the classified documents are not fabrications designed to deceive the Russians. Nor are they the kind of material to rally more U.S. support for pouring more resources into the black hole of Ukraine. These leaks feed the meme that the Biden team is incompetent and endangering American interests overseas.”
Make no mistake, such coup attempts by the Deep State are nothing new in US presidential history — Eisenhower was undercut when he sought détente with the Soviet Union; a whole corpus of materials available today suggests that CIA framed Nixon in the Watergate affair. Today, all this is happening against the backdrop of President Biden seeking a second term in the 2024 election.
As for Zelensky himself, he is acutely conscious that success or failure of his “counteroffensive” will be critical for continued western support. All things taken into account, a messy diplomatic scenario is looming ahead, one that would also open up divisions between western countries, and in which China could play a more important role.
There is no guarantee that public support for Biden’s proxy war would hold through the 2024 election. Suffice to say, it is increasingly doubtful whether Biden will sacrifice his presidency over the Ukraine war. These are of course early days. A large ship needs a big arc for turnaround.
The Russians are taking their decisions on the basis of own assessments. There has been a perceptible scaling up of Russian strikes against Ukrainian military facilities. Massive strikes deep into Ukrainian military’s rear areas have been reported.
An attack on Sunday on railroad infrastructure and depots for ammunition and fuel in Pavlograd, a major communication hub near Ukraine’s fourth-largest city of Dnepropetrovsk, was particularly devastating. The Ukrainian troops had been accumulating in Pavlograd for an offensive toward Zaporozhye. Two S-300 missile divisions were destroyed.
In the weekend, former president Dmitry Medvedev wrote in Telegram channel that Russia should seek “mass destruction” of Ukrainian personnel and military equipment and deal a “maximum military defeat” on the Armed Forces of Ukraine; strive for “the complete defeat of the enemy and the final overthrow of the Nazi regime in Kiev with the complete demilitarisation of the entire territory of the former Ukraine”; and press ahead with reprisals against key figures of the Zelensky government, “regardless of their location, and without limits.”
Medvedev added, “Otherwise, they will not calm down… and the war will drag on for a long time. Our country doesn’t need that.” The mood has turned ugly and the conflict is set to take a vicious turn, as diplomacy has run aground completely.
10 police personnel and a driver were killed in an ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district on April 26. An explosive device (IED) was used to blow up the police personnel’s vehicle when returning from an anti-Maoist operation.
The failure of the security forces to observe SOP even as the Naxals have been active during the period of what is known as the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign or TCOC has resulted in a major setback.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel stated that the State will “end Naxalism in the state soon”. “Pressure is being created on Naxals, so they did this act of cowardice. Naxalism will be uprooted,” CM Baghel was quoted by news agency ANI. He added, “Their sacrifice will not go to waste.”
Union home minister Amit Shah spoke to Baghel and promised help to the state government to overcome the menace. “Anguished by the cowardly attack on the Chhattisgarh police at Dantewada. Have spoken to Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister and assured all possible assistance to the state government. My condolences to the bereaved family members of the martyred Jawans,” the HM tweeted.
Despite the political commitment to overcome the insurgency in Chhattisgarh and other States witnessed for the past three decades now the ambush in Dantewada is a grim reminder of the continued operational challenges posed by Left Wing Extremism in India, thus complacency needs to be avoided.
Even though the area of operations for the Naxals have been greatly reduced, yet their potential to carry out such attacks remains high.
Police COBs & Terrain
While the police – state and central have increased their presence in the heartland of Abujmadh by establishing Company and Forward Operating Bases the vast forested terrain renders is virtually impossible to avoid movement of small groups of Naxals who can exploit the gaps in security to carry out such ambushes though the numbers have come down over the years.
The geographical tri-junction of Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Odisha located right at the southern tip of Sukma district in the south Bastar region is an area that witnesses the maximum number of such incidents including the deadly 2010 Maoist ambush in Dantewada district where 75 CRPF and one Chhattisgarh police personnel were killed.
While several Maoists leaders and cadres have surrendered, arrested and killed, the strength of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) continues to pose a threat of such attacks. The area of the ambush is controlled by the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of the Maoists and led by the ‘elusive’ Hidma, stated to be the commander of the PLGA battalion no. 1 which is accused by police agencies of planning and executing hundreds of ambushes against the forces over the last two decades.
Darbha divisional committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Maoist leader Jagdish and his team had planned the IED blast and the explosives were planted a day before the attack. Jagdish alias BubraKuharami was reportedly present at the site of the attack.
Darbha Division Committee called it an “act of resistance” against alleged atrocities and killings by security forces, who, it added, have turned Bastar into a security camp. The Maoists also alleged that drone attacks were being carried out by the security forces. “In such a situation the public has no option but to resist…in the recent act of resistance the PLGA forces attacked the DRG,” the statement read. The Maoists also intended to motivate the local tribal youth to join the group and desist the police.
While the Maoist central leadership is said to be old and jaded, there appear to be a number of younger commanders as Jagdish and Hidma who are capable of launching such attacks and thus there is a need for continued caution.
Under such circumstances adopting well established Standard Operating Procedures for movement and operations assumes importance. Conduct of the movement by the police personnel needs to be examined.
Adherence to SOP
The local guard unit personnel were a part of a four-vehicle convoy carrying personnel of district reserve guard (DRG), a special anti-Maoist unit of the state police. Around 150 DRG jawans were sent to Aranpur police station from Dantewada on April 25 following specific inputs on the movement of Maoists. An encounter ensued in the early hours on April 26 and two suspected Maoists were detained, police.
The Maoists team under Jagdish were reportedly awaiting return of the police team and sprung the IED based on information of movement of the convoy from informers on the route awaiting at Aamaa Pandum (celebrated with mangoes) barriers by tribal to collect donations.
Lack of a Road Opening Party at a time when four unprotected vehicles were moving in a convoy has also been questioned. Though it is claimed now that demining procedure as part of a road clearance operation was carried out before the troops passed along it, but the IED could not be detected as it was possibly dug in and planted after the demining had been carried out.
The road had been constructed of bitumen in 2014 or 2015 and during rain, the road shoulder had washed away and a four-foot hole was created which was exploited by the Naxals to plant an IED through a tunnel. “Even before this incident, IEDs have been placed under pucca roads. We have removed mines from the stretch in the past as well.”
Initiative – Advantage Naxals
In a militancy scenario where the terrorists hold the initiative they have an advantage which was evident in Dantewada.
By trailing the police or possibly luring them to an operation, the Darbha Division Committee was expecting return of the party and possibly knew well the timing of their return to spring an ambush.
The DRG personnel exhausted from their operation were possibly lacked the vigil desired and moved in a convoy rather than staggering with inherent protection.
It is difficult to maintain a high level of alertness for long periods which can be exploited by the Naxals.
It is such factors where counter insurgents need large number of boots on the ground – for rest, recoupment, turnover of patrolling and operational parties. Hopefully lessons will be learnt to avoid such unfortunate operational mishaps in the future.
While the Central and state police forces have done well to deploy COBs, these need to be employed as pivots for raids and offensive operations in the zone of influence apart from establishing an intelligence grid for active acquisition of information and neutralisation of the Naxals.
Integrating villages in the neighbourhood with tangible programme of fraternisation is also the role of the COB personnel. These are complex tasks capacity for which will have to be build up through a structured progamme.
by Jude Amory
The Easter attack of 2019 will forever be etched in the memories of the people of Sri Lanka, as a day of tragedy and sorrow that shook the nation to its core. The country’s Christian minority was gathering at their places of worship to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The serene sounds of the morning were shattered by a series of deafening explosions. The blood-curdling screams of innocent worshippers echoed through the air, as they became the target of a ruthless and cowardly attack. The devastation that ensued was unimaginable – bodies strewn on the church floors, streets filled with shattered glass and debris, multiple explosions being reported across the country and countless lives ruined forever. The devastation on this celebratory morning was backed by an ideology of hate and destruction yet the repeated question of “Who perpetrated the Easter Attack?” is a node of mere division and misinformation to an obvious truth.
In moments of tragedy, it is natural for people to seek answers and make sense of the inexplicable. However, in doing so, we must be wary of the dangers of succumbing to baseless conspiracy theories and misguided speculation. The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka were a heinous act of terrorism that claimed the lives of over 270 innocent people. The attackers were driven by a perverted ideology that thrives on hatred, violence, and the glorification of death. It is a destructive ideology that seeks to divide communities, sow seeds of discord and create chaos. To suggest that the attack was a grand political plot or that it was an inside job is to deny the obvious truth that is staring us in the face – this was the work of Islamist terrorists who are willing to use violence and bloodshed to advance their twisted agenda. To engage in such discussions is not only futile but also dangerous, as it risks taking us further away from the truth and closer to the abyss of hatred and violence.
Who is Responsible for the Easter Sunday Attack?
The attacks were carried out by groups affiliated with the Islamic State, and their targets were mainly churches and hotels. In compliance with international Islamist extremist agenda, Zahran Hashim and his National Tawhid Jam’ath (NTJ), followed the tenets of Salafi Wahhabism, an extremist Islamist ideology that is known for its intolerance towards other religions and cultures.
Salafi Wahhabism is a puritanical and extremist interpretation of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia in the 18th century. It promotes a strict adherence to Islamic law and a rejection of any modern or Western influences. Its followers believe in a literal interpretation of the Quran and the Hadiths, often manipulating this fundamentalist interpretation to radicalise, recruit and propagate hate. This ideology has been criticised for its intolerance of other religions and its encouragement of violence against non-believers.
Zahran Hashim was a fervent believer in this ideology and the NTJ shared his extremist views. The group was known for its extremist rhetoric and had been on the radar of Sri Lankan intelligence agencies for some time prior to the attacks. 48 hours after the attacks, then leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, took responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka as being under the direction of the larger Islamic State and as part of its regional caliphate agenda. Al-Baghdadi’s message was complimented with a video of Zahran and the other suicide bombers pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and to its leader al-Baghdadi, as released on the Amaq News Agency – the Islamic State’s media centre.
Although Zahran’s grand plan was much more comprehensive than a single consolidated attack, he was unable to execute as he feared that law enforcement could thwart his attempts if waited longer. Having insufficient time to radicalise enough people to the extent of suicide, Zahran himself agreed to die in the bombing, wrongly claiming himself a martyr of Islam. The leader of the attack is Zahran. Unlike when al-Qaeda-leader directed the attack on the United States on 9/11, NTJ-leader Zahran directed the attack and also participated in it in Sri Lanka.
Why was the Attack carried out?
Emanating from the Gulf, the Salafi Wahhabi doctrines hijacked multiple peaceful Islamic religious ideals. Like the concept of ‘Tawhid’, meaning the oneness of Allah, was exploited by Zahran and other extremists to portray themselves as the true carrier of the Islamic faith, the concept of ‘al-Wala’ wal-Bara’’ was also used by the terrorists for destruction.
Al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ is a concept in Islam that refers to the allegiance and disavowal of individuals and groups. It is often translated as “loyalty and disavowal”. The concept is based on the idea that its followers should be loyal to Allah and His Messenger, and should disavow anything or anyone that opposes their teachings. This concept has been widely associated with extremist groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State. These groups have used the concept to justify violence against non-Muslims and to create a strict separation between themselves and those who do not share their beliefs.
In addition to ideological concepts, Zahran and his NTJ used real-world opportunities to recruit and radicalise. The 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition and the multiple subsequent conflicts in the Middle East were fodder for the extremists to justify attacks against Christians and Westerners. In his farewell message, Zahran indicates that he intends to hurt Christians and Westerners as revenge for the attacks against terrorists (who he claims as true believers) in Baghuz, a town in Eastern Syria which was the final stronghold of the Islamic State Caliphate that fell in early 2019.
Further, Zahran cites the attacks against the Christchurch Muslims by right-wing extremist Brenton Tarrant as an attack against Islam by Christians and justified his choice of churches and hotels to target Christians and Westerners alike.
Why did Conspiracy Theories Emerge?
Despite the clear evidence that the attacks were carried out by an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group following an extremist ideology of hurt and destruction, there are still people who propagate and believe in conspiracy theories that suggest the attacks were an insider job. The conspiracy theories are propagated by three main groups; opposition politicians, Islamic organisations, Catholic Church leadership.
Opposition politicians use the ‘insider job’ argument as a means of political defamation and to score points for political gain. This served as mechanism to trump rival political bases both on religious lines as well as political affiliations.
Islamic organisations were also promotional or at least tolerant to the ‘insider job’ theory as a mechanism to whitewash the heinous attack being associated with the Islamic religion in itself. However, it is important to note that the Zahran and his terrorist outfit are in no way a representation of Islamic values but rather a psychopathic killer cowering behind an Islamist ideological rendition. However, it is also true that Islamic religious bodies like the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) failed to identify radical Salafi Wahhabi preachers in their institutions and this has led to the proliferation of conspiracy theories that seek to shift blame away from the actual perpetrators of the attacks. The ACJU has not done enough to combat the spread of extremist ideology in Sri Lanka, and some of its members had fuelled conspiracy theories perhaps in attempt to clear their name. The ACJU must take responsibility for its failures and work to address the root causes of extremism in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, it must also be mentioned that on Easter Sunday 2023, ACJU finally released a clear message that the Easter Sunday attack was conducted by Islamic extremists and that the community must come together to reduce radicalisation.
The Catholic Church, led by its Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, has also been promoting these conspiracy theories, which have far-reaching consequences for national security. Due to a lack of communication about the attacks after Easter 2019, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church were kept in the dark about the status quo of the procedure and investigation of the attacks. Failure to timely and accurately inform led to the creation of doubt of a political conspiracy behind the attack. Although it is understandable why Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and the Catholic Church are skeptical about the status of the investigation, blatant propagation of misinformation and conspiracy is counterproductive to the efforts at gaining justice, reducing community radicalisation and strengthening interfaith harmony.
Effects of Online Falsehoods and Misinformation
Online falsehoods and manipulation have changed the public perception of the Easter Sunday attack. Today, multiple segments of the public no longer identify religious extremism as the key driver of the attack. The conspiracy theory that government intelligence conducted the attack has gathered significant momentum, which is deeply concerning. If religious extremism is not addressed, follow-on attacks are likely. Justice will not be served to the victims, and the security and intelligence community, criminal-justice, and prisons system will be severely undermined.
The misinformation being spread about the Easter Sunday attack also has the potential to sow the seeds of radicalisation among the Muslim community. The spread of such unfounded theories, especially those that blame the government or non-Muslim groups for the attack, can create a sense of victimhood among Muslims and exacerbate existing grievances, thus pushing them further towards radicalisation. This can be a dangerous path to tread, as it can ultimately lead to more extremist views and even violence. It is therefore crucial that conspiracy theories are debunked and a clear communication plan be established by the government to remove the translucent veil that hinders clarity.
How can the Government counter the Conspiracy Theories?
Communication, communication, communication. The government must take a proactive role in countering such narratives by providing factual information and addressing concerns. This can be done through the use of government websites, social media platforms, and public announcements. The government can also work with credible media outlets to provide accurate information and debunk false claims. Consecutive governments have failed to structure a strong communication strategy which have led to multiple misinformation and disinformation tactics used to exploit an uninformed public.
The government can also engage with the Muslim community to build trust and encourage open communication. This can include establishing community outreach programs, engaging with local mosques and Islamic institutions, and promoting interfaith dialogue. In addition, the government must strengthen its laws against hate speech, incitement, and extremist content. The Anti-Terrorism Act must act as a deter to the propagation of hate speech and radicalization within the communities in Sri Lanka. This can include stricter penalties for those who spread false information or incite violence. Additionally, the government can work with social media platforms to remove extremist content and promote more responsible online behavior.
What Must the Public Demand?
Instead of asking “Who perpetrated the Easter Attack?”, to which there is a clear answer already, the public must rather demand why the government failed to prevent the attack due to negligence and demand what is being done to punish the officials who failed to act on the intelligence of the attacks. It is unacceptable that such a horrific attack could take place without any warning or preventive action being taken by the authorities. A transparent ruling and sentencing must be carried out against the officials who failed to act in time, which will support the strengthening of the country’s national security apparatus that can help prevent further violence.
The Way Forward
As Islamist terrorism is a result of ideological extremism after exclusivism, it is paramount that interfaith harmony be promoted through religious dialogue and communication. It is also important to recognise that Islam is a peaceful religion and that Muslims are a peaceful people. The vast majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka are peaceful and reject the extremist ideology of Salafi Wahhabism. Sufi Muslims, in particular, have lived side-by-side with other races and religions in Sri Lanka for centuries, promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We must not allow the actions of a few extremists to tarnish the reputation of an entire religion and its followers.
In addition to the propagation of conspiracy theories, the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka also brought to light the dangerous and extremist ideology of Salafi Wahhabism. This ideology has been used by terrorist groups like the Islamic State to justify their violent actions and recruit new members. Having witnessed the destruction of hateful fundamentalist ideologies such as Salafi Wahhabism, the Sri Lankan government and intelligence community must act to prevent radicalisation and ensure de-radicalisation is conducted to strengthen the Islamic community against foreign ideologies of hate.
The conspiracy theories which have gained traction through media, religious leaders and political opposition, have led to a dangerous erosion of trust in the government and the intelligence services. The government must immediately take action to secure the information space against misinformation and disinformation about the Easter Attack and immediately take action against those who failed to act in time.
The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka were a tragic event that shook the nation and the world, being the largest Islamic State-backed attack outside of Iraq and Syria. While the government and security forces have taken some steps to prevent future attacks and tighten security, its measures remain inadequate on the community level. Only through understanding and tolerance can Sri Lanka and the world hope to prevent such horrific events from happening in the future. It is imperative that all Sri Lankans work together to promote unity and understanding, and reject any dangerous ideology of hatred and violence.
Jude Amory is a national security analyst.
Jack Teixeira and I have a couple things in common: Cape Cod and a Top Secret security clearance.
Way back in the summer of 1966, holding a draft notice that threatened to send me into combat in Vietnam, I found a way to apply for enlistment as an Army intelligence case officer. As I’ve oft said, I didn’t care much for camping, so I knew I’d fare badly as an infantryman in the Big Muddy. An intelligence job held the prospect of landing me in some safe place like West Berlin, where I’d be tasked to recruit spies against the Soviets Or so I thought. I ended up in Vietnam anyway, but that’s another story.
For final acceptance into the intelligence school, I needed to have a Top Secret clearance. According to my personnel file that I got decades later, Army counterintelligence agents fanned out to interview past neighbors, teachers, friends and so forth, to see if I could be trusted enough to hold a classified job and handle secret materials. They all said nice things. Things went smoothly until they reached out to one of my few past employers—I was just a kid— a Mr. Sugarman, the proprietor of Sugarman Shoes, in Hyannis, Mass., where I’d briefly held a summer job three years earlier. Sensing a potential national security threat, the agents raced down to Cape Cod to grill Mr. Sugarman in person.
Why had he fired me? they asked Sugarman. “He was no good with women’s shoes,” he told them.
Catastrophe averted, they probably bolted to the beach.
But I wasn’t out of the woods, it would turn out. Checking my college records, the agents discovered I had seen a shrink briefly when I was a college freshman.
What was that about? they asked. I told them I’d wrestled with my sanity after a girl dropped me like a rock. It was no big deal, they decided. I was cleared for takeoff into the higher realms of intelligence training.
Standards must have changed a lot since then. Federal prosecutors revealed Wednesday that Jack Teixeira, the Air Force techie charged with leaking massive troves of highly classified military and intelligence documents, had been kicked out of high school in 2018 after a classmate overheard him talking about “Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats.” He was, they say, “a gun enthusiast.”
Teixeira continued his path down into an extremist wormhole after high school, prosecutors further alleged that, saying that last November he wrote a social media post that he wanted to kill a “ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded.” In February, he asked a fellow gun nut “for advice about what kind of rifle would fire best from an SUV,” according to The Washington Post’s account, saying he wanted to commit a shooting in a ‘crowded urban or suburban environment.’” He was well prepared for that, investigators say, having a “virtual arsenal of weapons” stored at his places of residence.
“A search of Teixeira’s bedroom found that he kept a gun locker two feet from his bed containing handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style weapon and a gas mask, among other weapons,” the Post reported.
“They also found a silencer-style accessory in his desk, and a military-style helmet and mounting bracket in the dumpster outside the house,” Gizmodo added. “All weapons were seized, but a search of his parents’ residences found bolt-action rifles, AR and AK-style weapons, and a bazooka.”
Obviously, all the circuit breakers that should’ve prevented Teixeira from getting into the Air Force, much less anywhere near classified documents, failed to work.
The Air Force has suspended the operation commander and detachment commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, where Teixeira served. It’s a start.
But it hardly needs saying that the Air Force needs to look at its security-clearance investigators as well, who failed to live up to the standards Army gumshoes applied to me and Mr. Sugarman. Teixeria’s high school suspension should have triggered a deeper security clearance probe—that’s how it’s supposed to work: They trip over one oddity and start digging. Did they dismiss Teixeira’s chatter about “Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats” as the typical braggadocio of white male teens at the school lockers? Or did they share Teixeira’s enthusiasm for guns and race-hazing and find his warped bullshit entertaining? Alas, it’s all too possible.
As the Jan. 6 investigators discovered, too many neo-Nazi and white supremacy extremists have found a home in the military services, including their intelligence ranks. Last year SpyTalk reported that an internal U.S. intelligence messaging system—a kind of classified Twitter channel for I.C. employees—had become a “dumpster fire of hate speech” by 2019, in the wake of PresidentTrump’s repeated lenient remarks about white supremacists.
Signs are it’s getting worse. Over the weekend, two soldiers were suspected of lighting fires and spray-painting racial slurs and a penis on the walls of a barracks at Ft. Hood, Texas, Military.com reported. On Wednesday a soldier at Ft. Bragg, N.C., home of the Green Berets, pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered short-barrel rifle, which he intended to use “to physically remove” as many of black and brown people he could find in neighboring counties, according to the feds. A search of his home found “two extended magazines, ammunition, as well as an American flag with a Swastika, instead of the blue field and stars, and other Nazi-type patches.”
So perhaps we should not be all that surprised that, despite Teixeira’s troubled backstory, he won an assignment to the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base on the Cape—whereupon he was not only granted a Top Secret security clearance, he began sharing high level classified traffic with his pals in guns and wargamers chat rooms. It went undetected for a year, investigators think.
Something is seriously wrong here. It’s a bigger story—and problem—than one man’s torrential leak.
Which brings me to another personal point of reference: During the year I spent at the Defense Language School preparing to go to Vietnam, I and a number of classmates turned sour on the war. I even tried to transfer out of intelligence into the medics. (The bid was rejected.) My dismay about Vietnam only deepened after a few weeks in-country. (“What took you so long?” a CIA veteran chortled to me over lunch last year.) But it never crossed my mind to leak the classified documents I had showing the futility of the U.S. war effort. Nor, I bet, did it occur to my comrades.
Plenty of leaks did occur, to be sure, about the disparity between the Saigon command’s rosy claims and battlefield realities. In 1971, Daniel Ellsburg leaked the sordid history of the U.S. in Vietnam only after it was clear officials’ upbeat statements about their progress in the war were malevolent hogwash. But most any journalist conscientious enough to travel with troops in the field knew that.
What I’m struck by is Teixeira’s evident lack of purpose in leaking documents other than to show off—and his chatroom pals’ utter indifference to the eye-popping documents and reporting the breach, according to reports.
Is this a Gen-Z thing, an age group soaked into passivity by tides of political posturing, government lies (say, about Iraq WMD and the Afghanistan war), and social media’s wicked crosscurrents of conspiracy theories, spy-agency disinformation campaigns and “fake news”?
Or is it a wargamer and gun enthusiasts thing, abetted by the military?
“Teixeira’s blithe attitude toward sharing top secret documents on the [Discord] channels is less surprising when we consider how the military’s recruitment and training eroded important boundaries separating harmless, at-home wargaming from real life military conflicts,” extremism and propaganda expert Emma L. Briant wrote here at SpyTalk two weeks ago. “That followed last year’s problematic Army recruitment ads for its 4th Psychological Operations Group, which, amazingly enough, were created to appeal to young folks drawn to conspiracy theories. Research shows that the embrace of conspiracy theories can lead to radicalization and violence, which in the military may be worsened by combat-induced trauma or psychological distress.”
In America today, radicalism takes the form of rank racism, says extremism expert Kathleen Belew, author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.
“If anybody thinks this is just a kid playing around on Discord, please go look at the charging documents, which feature the ideological writings, and the weapons, of Teixeira,” she wrote Thursday on Twitter.
“Also, in case you haven’t yet heard me say this, when it comes to the white power movement, THERE ARE NO LONE WOLVES,” she added (her caps). “Actors work WITHIN A MOVEMENT and we have to study both. DO NOT allow this to remain a narrative about one disaffected young man.”
It’s not. The movement is here, and metastasizing, it seems. How the military, especially, deals with it, is one hell of a problem—for us all.