Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Jalalabad Urination: Facebook Censorship




06 August 2013

On Saturday a suicide attack unfolded near the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.  A dozen people were reported killed with another twenty wounded.   Eight of the killed were reported to be children.

The next day, 04 August, another bomb exploded in Jalalabad, wounding another sixteen people for a two-day total of about forty-five killed and wounded.

An Afghan friend forwarded the image above, saying this was a suicide bomber who was shot before he exploded and that his vest had been removed.  The man who forwarded the image said that even the kids hate these people.  Needless to say, this image, bad as it is, marks an important “atmospheric” in the war and is newsworthy.

For people unfortunate enough to experience a few suicide attacks, the image of the child urinating is not shocking.  The thunder of the bombs, the inevitable automatic weapons fire from security forces, follow on attacks, the frequent secondary explosions, the shrieks, the stunned children and adults stumbling in the smoke, the fully electrified high tension wires dangling waiting to fry people, the ambulance that arrives filled with explosives, the clothes and body parts up in the trees along with thick smells of petroleum and flesh all create a screaming chorus.

Read more: Jalalabad Urination: Facebook Censorship

Forgotten Combat Video from Afghanistan


 30 July 2013

Last week the Kopp-Etchells series experienced another revival.  For four years the work has been translated into dozens of languages and seen ‘round the world in hundreds if not thousands of outlets ranging from Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, to the Smithsonian.  A Google search of "Kopp Etchells Effect" returns about 60,000 hits.

Last week Kyle Hill performed an analysis of the Effect (not caused by static) on the Nautilus blog, which was picked up by the Scientific American blog, which was picked up by the Daily Mail (UK), which was picked up by the Examiner (UK), and picked up by Fox at least twice, which inspired this excellent video

Read more: Forgotten Combat Video from Afghanistan

Fox and Friends at 0820 EST Sunday


27 July 2013

Jill Stephenson and I will be guests on Fox and Friends tomorrow morning.  

Jill is the courageous and inspirational mother of Benjamin Kopp, the hero who literally was killed but did not die.  Army Rangers are hard to stop.

Please read this before watching the show: The Kopp-Etchells Effect


Note for Non-Americans on Race relations in the USA


22 July 2013

Having spent about twenty years in dozens of countries, I have some idea about how we are viewed abroad. When it comes to race, many people look at America as black and white. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. We are a bunch of mixed breeds.

One of my siblings recently got a genetic test. We are all over the map, including a trace from Sub-Saharan Africa. Apparently I have black grandmother or grandfather in my tree.  Mostly it turns out we apparently are Northern European, but still we are mutts.  My incredible wife is darker than many so called African Americans.

Insofar as "white" culture in America, there is no definite white culture that most whites belong to.  Many whites are with some form or another of black, Asian, or Hispanic culture, and the inverse is true. Keeping in mind there is no "Asian" culture any more than there is a "white" or "black" or "Hispanic" or "European" or "Thai." We truly are mixed up with each other, which is one of our primary strengths.

Do you know how many cultures there are in Thailand?  There are so many that I do not even have an idea. There must be a hundred, and even more if we count fusions. Just as Europeans -- I spent about six years in Europe -- often think America is black and white, we project the same onto other countries.

Read more: Note for Non-Americans on Race relations in the USA

Race Baiting and Lies in America


21 July 2013

image001-1000George Bush Senior -- Naval Aviator at 18, then off to war.

(Many Americans will be familiar with much of what is in this dispatch, yet many international readers never stepped foot inside the United States.  This case is getting international ink, and so here we go.)

Trayvon Martin was 17 when he was shot.  Many people say he was just a “child.”

Let's look at the evidence.  17 year-olds can, and do, join the US military.

At 17, I joined the military and reported for duty when 18.  Before graduating from high school, I could bench press 300 pounds and hoist 225 pounds from the floor to over my head with arms locked, weighing less than 148 pounds.

At 17, my high school friend Scott Helvenston became a Navy SEAL.  The youngest ever.  Some people say this is not possible.  To save embarrassment, naysayers might take a minute to Google “Youngest Navy SEAL.”

Read more: Race Baiting and Lies in America

My Zimmerman-Martin Moment: On a vastly smaller media scale


18 July 2013

I am hypersensitive to legal/media cases like this because I was involved in one.

At 19, I was attacked, unprovoked, by a 23 year-old troublemaker who had three other run-ins that day. He also had been fired from his restaurant job after wrecking the kitchen.

He said he would kill me.  I did everything possible to avoid the fight.  I even bought him a drink.  (Mistake -- this rewarded his bullying.)

There were many witnesses. He attacked me and I punched back and he died.  I believe the entire fight lasted about two seconds.  A witness said four.  I did not kick or hit him after he crumpled.  I left.  I was charged with 2nd Degree Murder and Assault with Intent to Murder and went to jail. My attorney said the only reason I faced charges was media pressure because I was a "Green Beret."

Read more: My Zimmerman-Martin Moment: On a vastly smaller media scale

West Point Leadership- Profiles of Courage


16 July 2013



Yesterday a tremendous book arrived via courier.  I normally do not review books but this one includes some of my writing and photographs and so this was mandatory.  I spent hours flipping through the pages.  The quality is amazing.

My initial impression is that the authors have created an important historical compilation of incredible careers and accomplishments.  Profiles of Courage can be used as a biographical and historical reference yet also contains gripping stories from many wars.

Profiles of Courage is not the sort of book that I will read in one push, but will keep on my desk to take piece by piece.  I personally know some of the folks whose careers are described, and so naturally went to their biographies and enjoyed every word and picture, some of which I made.  It is a great honor to have work included in these historical pages.  This is high quality work.

Read more: West Point Leadership- Profiles of Courage

Decline of Dustoff: A Symptom


27 June 2013

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More people are waking up to smell the bitter tea.  Our Army helicopter medical evacuation system, called “Dustoff,” is broken. People are dying because of it.  I have written about this many times.

And now retired Dustoff pilot Brigadier General Patrick Brady has weighed in with his article “Decline of Dustoff: Medal of Honor Huey pilot bemoans today’s medical air-evacuation process.”

Among other Dustoff policy failures, the idea that Dustoff should remain unarmed while flying with red crosses is ridiculous. During the last sizable wars we have fought -- Vietnam, Iraq, Iraq again, Afghanistan -- we have always enjoyed air superiority and we had hospitals close to the action.

Read more: Decline of Dustoff: A Symptom

Sunset Over Denver


22 June 2013


Ginger Robinson made this image and sent it to me, saying: “You would think Krakatoa was erupting: Sunset over Denver last night. Smoke from Lime Gulch Fire.

Quick Notes and Updates


19 June 2013

Due to time constraints, I must write this as an unedited stream of consciousness.  My apologies for the roughness.

Michael Hastings was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles.  The single car accident happened at about 0425.  He crashed into a tree and was burned beyond recognition.  He was 33. 

Mr. Hastings was the war correspondent whose Rolling Stone article led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the top General in Afghanistan.

Although Hastings was widely read, no serious war correspondents took him seriously, or at least not the ones I know.  He did, however, accurately portray my words and context in his book “The Operators.” Hastings was like an undisciplined hitman with a pen and license to kill.  One of his gonzo articles damaged the career and reputation of Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, for no cause.  My sense was that he picked fights with key people mostly to draw attention.  Though Hastings was not respected among war correspondents, it is sad to see a man die so young so horribly.  Just why he crashed into a tree at 0425 remains unknown.  No doubt the conspiracies will begin to fly.

Read more: Quick Notes and Updates

Fraud Surrounding MIA Green Beret John Hartley Robertson


06 May 2013

Many people contacted me in regard to a documentary movie about an American Green Beret, missing some 44 years.  They wanted to know if this story is true.

Unfortunately, this is another fraud, shamelessly pulling on the heartstrings of the many good people who want it to be true.

Conspiracy theorists of course will blame this on the government.  Our government deserves blame for many things, but frankly, it strains even my imagination that any recent US administration would attempt to cover up this case.  President Clinton would have had every reason to run it up the flag pole, as would have Bush and now Obama.

Read more: Fraud Surrounding MIA Green Beret John Hartley Robertson

Come to Jamaica - Mon!


09 April 2013

image001Crystal clear

A good friend—who is a young former Marine Captain and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan—was taking a break from grad school when he headed to Jamaica. I emailed asking how his vacation went.  His answer…is a trip.  My friend's letter has been edited so that it would make sense and provide context for a general readership.

(Side note: it is possible that a major war will soon break out on the Korean Peninsula. If major combat begins, I will head over.  Seoul is a five-hour direct flight from Chiang Mai.  I am checking my gear today.  If it stays to a low rumble, I will watch from the bleachers in Chiang Mai.)

We begin:


Jamaica was something.  I have lived overseas in challenging countries for over 20 years.  I am American, but was raised overseas, including in such exotic locations as Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

When I became a Marine officer, they sent me to Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, and elsewhere, where I served up to rank of Captain before heading to graduate school.  Before and between all this, I have backpacked or traveled to dozens of countries and locations such as Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, northern Laos, eastern Costa Rica, Borneo, and Penang, trying to soak it all in.

I have seen good scams, including in Sri Lanka, such as having random people walk up to you and try to coax you into an impromptu tour, immediately joined by random taxis and whatnot at just the right time.

Some of the other scams include bribes, various bar scams, overcharging, or innocuous ones such as taxis refusing to use their meters.

Read more: Come to Jamaica - Mon!

Stalking Soldier Arrested, Disarmed by Texas Police: Some facts, opinion, and analysis


28 March 2013

img001US Army Master Sergeant CJ Grisham: This Soldier has a Top Secret clearance.

Over the past couple of years, I repeatedly warned the US Army that Master Sergeant Christopher “CJ” Grisham is a lethal threat.  These warnings were ignored.

Grisham has harassed a long list of people, and has stalked me.  Ignoring him did not work.  Grisham contacted units with which I was embedded, and he impeded my wartime work.  I continued to warn the Army that if they did not get this Soldier under control, there would be consequences.  After some time, the inevitable occurred.

I never met Grisham.  Never saw him in person.  Never spoke with him.  Initially, his motivations for stalking me were mysterious, apparently stemming from my failure to answer an email during a period when I was receiving thousands.  Despite my efforts, nearly 8,000 emails remain unopened, though I continue to work through the backlog.  Grisham seemed to be upset that I did not reply.  I do not recall his message.

Read more: Stalking Soldier Arrested, Disarmed by Texas Police: Some facts, opinion, and analysis

Tragedy in Thailand


27 March 2013


Burma neighbors Thailand on the west.  For 65 years, a war against and between ethnic groups in Burma has been on.  The conflicts created many internally displaced refugees, while others have crossed into Thailand.  Thailand has allowed this incursion for humanitarian reasons.

One of the ethnic groups are called Karenni.  I visited some of the Karen (not Karenni but closely related) villages in Burma and Thailand.  The Karen I have met have all been Christian, and their churches are little more than bamboo huts similar to those on Gilligan’s Island.  Some people sleep on mats on the bamboo floors, while others use hammocks.

Their homes are made from bamboo, planks, and thatch.

Read more: Tragedy in Thailand

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts



04 February 2013

News of Chris Kyle’s shooting has reached around the world.  Many people are asking for my thoughts, and so this morning I write these words in response.

Chris was credited with killing about 160 enemy combatants in Iraq. He is called the most deadly sniper in US history.  Obviously this will not sit well with many people, while others will see it differently.

It is unseemly to politicize this today, and I will drop it there.

Chris was known for helping folks suffering from PTSD.  I have enjoyed hearing Chris talk at times (not to me personally but interviews) and I am sure that he would frown on people blaming such acts on PTSD.

Reckless speculation hurts our veterans.

Read more: Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL Murdered: Some Thoughts

Air Force Crashing


25 January 2013

Team AFMC,

The budgetary uncertainties currently facing the Department of Defense combined with a projected $1.8 billion shortfall in Air Force funding for overseas contingency operations, require us to take prudent steps to mitigate budget execution risks.

Based on guidance received last week from Headquarters Air Force, my intent is for Air Force Materiel Command to take immediate actions to reduce spending across all appropriations, Working Capital Funds and other reimbursable programs within AFMC's governance authority.  In line with the Air Force direction, our actions will -- to the maximum extent possible -- be reversible or recoverable and minimize impacts to core readiness programs.

These actions are necessary in order to support our DOD and our nation. However, we still have a requirement to continue the critical missions that we execute on behalf of the Air Force.  Therefore, mission critical exceptions to these actions can be approved with discretion.

Read more: Air Force Crashing

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