Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Farsi Farce Continues

The Farsi Island incident in which Iran seized two US Navy riverine boats has been an embarrassment of epic proportions and continues to defy logic and reason.  The latest development is the Navy awarding a Navy Commendation Medal to the only female crew member in that collection of misfits for exhibiting “extraordinary courage” in activating an emergency beacon while being held captive (1).

This is ridiculous.  After failing to do her job (gunner) and protect her crewmates and boats, she manages to do the least possible good thing and the Navy falls all over themselves to give her an award. 

If she had exhibited “extraordinary courage” she would have fired her gun prior to being captured. 

If she had exhibited “extraordinary courage” she would have ensured that her gun station had a full load of ammo, was loaded, and ready for combat before beginning the mission. 

If she had exhibited “extraordinary courage” she would have jumped the three  Iranians who took the ten sailors captive and inspired her pathetic fellow sailors to resist.

This is the Navy trying to make lemonade out of lemons while also kowtowing to the women’s movement.

I’ll give her this much credit – she attempted to do one tiny thing right while the remainder of her inept, cowardly crew sat and did nothing other than, in some cases, literally, cry.  So, good for that, but a medal for “extraordinary courage”?  What a farce.


I can't help but wonder if this entire episode reflects the pacification of our society at large.  We've eliminated the ability to resolve one's problems - everything must go through the courts, we're told.  Once upon a time, a good old fashioned butt kicking was sufficient to deal with a bully.  Now, we have to respect their life choices, work to understand them, appeal to their good nature (they probably don't have any), seek counseling for our own misguided impulse to physically stop the bully, and, ultimately, appeal to the courts for restraining orders.

We've prevented boys from playing dodgeball.  We've eliminated man to man fights.  We've demonized aggression among males while extolling the virtues of female feelings.  We've gender-downed our military standards.  We've eliminated aggressive, insensitive mascots from athletic teams.  We're turning football into touch football.  The list goes on.

Now, our military won't fight.  Their first, instinctive response is to surrender and cry.  Is it any wonder why?

Once upon a time our heroes were men of action; hard fighting men; aggressive men.  Have you noticed that now many of our military "heroes" are people who were captured?  Remember Jessica Lynch?  She got a Bronze Star, among other medals, for doing absolutely nothing other than being captured.  Remember the hero's welcome the crew of the EP-3 received after being released by the Chinese? 

We've pacified our society and now wonder why our military won't fight?


(1) website, “Female Sailor Recognized for Bravery During Iranian Detention Incident”, Hope Hodge Seck, 10-Aug-2016,


  1. I agree on this angle
    Hanging them out to dry doesn't solve the many problems, giving them medals makes those problems worse

  2. As a former Navy Officer it's difficult to comprehend the actions of those Officers and Senior Petty Officers in both that command and on the "boats" / patrol craft themselves. Some of them need a Court Martial.

    If the Coxswain, as reported, actually disobeyed an order from a Commissioned Officer, regardless of his reasoning, he needs to spend some years in whatever constitutes a military prison these days -- unfortunately they closed the Naval Prison at Portsmouth years ago.

    As for the Sailor manning the gun, the Navy is not a democracy -- she (or any Sailor) does not, can not, and will not decide when or when not to open fire; and has no authority to decide when or where ammo is stored, etc. Those in charge / those in command decide those matters in all cases at all time in the Navy.

    One may not like that, the decisions made by those in charge may not be correct or satisfy the needs of insiders or outsiders, but that is the Navy way. The Navy is a dictatorship, not a democracy or a Republic. Individuals don't get votes.

    It doesn't excuse poor command or leadership decisions, but under no circumstances can we have individual enlisted making independent decisions on ships or boats, especially of that nature. Notice I said on ships or boats.

    And, the situation faced by those on the Patrol Craft and the dealing with actual or potential hostile forces is one with which I am familiar. I served on Destroyers providing NGFS off of I Corps in Vietnam, on Sea Dragon Opp off of North Vietnam, and on SAR Station duty off of North Vietnam. Further, our Destroyer Squadron was by chance off of Japan when the USS Pueblo was surrendered by its Captain to the North Koreans.

    1. Very nice comment. However, you miss a few pertinent points.

      It is not clear what commands, if any, the individual gunners received, and at what points.

      This entire incident involved an inherent contradiction between the armed forces code and local policies both formal and informal. The right to self defense is inherent. That raises questions like, does the armed forces code take precedence over a lack of direct orders or even a direct order that contradicts the code? I refer you to Article 2 of the code which forbids surrender and forbids a commander from surrendering their command if they have the means to resist. Had a gunner opted to fire on their own would they be commended for upholding the code of conduct even though those surrounding them failed or would they be punished for upholding the code? These are weighty legal issues that none of us have an answer for but it demonstrates that the issue is not as clear cut as you describe it. Personally, I believe that acting to defend their command would earn a gunner a medal.

      The military is filled with stories of individuals who acted either without orders or in defiance of orders to do the right thing and earned medals for doing so. The soldier who, with no direct order and possibly in defiance of an order to stay put, charges a machine gun nest and saves his fellows is a hero. Above and beyond is kind of the definition of a hero. Of course, there is a fine line between heroic actions and disobedience of orders and often the line is determined by the results.

      I would argue that had this gunner (or any crewman) opened fire, with or without orders, once it became clear that the Iranians intended to capture our boats and that our commander was going along with that intent that the gunner would have been obeying a higher order, namely the code of conduct and inherent right of self defense, and would have been proclaimed a hero, after the fact.

      As you well know, orders are not absolute. An order to commit a war crime, for example, should rightfully be refused. I contend that an order (or lack thereof) that violates the code of conduct should equally and rightly be refused.

      Is an order to violate the code of conduct a valid order? I say no. What would the legal system say? I don't know but, in theory, there is no higher order than the code of conduct.

    2. The larger point, which your comment also addresses, is the lack of punishment for some pretty serious violations. We have now set a precedent that a Coxswain may do as they choose with very little consequence. The commander who has to wonder whether his legitimate orders will be obeyed is an ineffective commander. The Navy just weakened the authority of all commanders, current and future.

    3. First, I only recently found your blog and find your articles very well done and well thought out. Also, interesting discussions.

      I understand your position given the incredibly poor performance and conduct unbecoming of those in command of the noted incident. As for surrendering one’s ship or boat, the actions of the Skipper of the Pueblo in 1968 were considered disgraceful by every Navy Officer I knew. He accepted that command and should have had that ship better prepared – perhaps having operating weapons would have been nice. And he should have turned his vessel out to sea and be sunk if necessary, especially considering what he had on board.

      I also understand your thoughts about the Code of Conduct and the notation about the actions of soldiers acting independently.

      I am certainly not an expert or even knowledgeable about ground warfare despite having had many close associations with Marine Corps Officers during my career. However, I would believe that a soldier who disobeys orders and / or acts on their own electing to open fire on an enemy in the noted type scenario generally places only themselves at risk, not so on a ship or Patrol Craft.

      I don’t know the Rate (pay grade) of the Machine Gunner, but I would imagine she was probably at best a PO3 (E-4). Marine Corps 0300 Corporals may command squads, but a Navy E-4, just like the Marine E-4 in an Air Wing, is a glorified E-3 – accordingly absent previous instruction granting them authority to independently open fire they will be Court Martialed for that type of action, not receive a medal absent an awful lot of luck or cove up. I know it may be difficult to understand, but the Navy would never tolerate independent firing in a de facto peace time environment, especially when a low rated gunner is just a few feet away from a Senior Petty Officer or Commissioned Officer. I can’t speak for the SEALS, Seabees, Inshore Underwater Warfare Teams (or whatever they call them today); but ships and boats are a different world. There are situations in which a Sailor could act independently, but that would be when acting within the technical aspects of their Rate’s responsibilities or maybe in a Damage Control GQ situation.

      And, even even independent action in the latter situation is debatable. For instance, if one's GQ station is on the lower decks and something were to go wrong in a given secured space -- no one is going to risk other parts of the ship to rescue the endangered party. The ship comes first. We would stop anyone attempting to rescue others if that action exposed others or placed the ship at risk.

      As for a Sailor, or anyone in the Navy or Marine Corps, taking the chance to disobey / refuse an order or act independently under the purview of the Code of Conduct, etc. – without at all intending to be sarcastic, all I can say to that individual is Good Luck. The Navy is a fascinating high tech environment, but it is also an absolute dictatorship. Those electing to disobey an order are not the final arbiter of that action and a Naval Court Martial Board is neither a Civilian Jury nor Judge. I served on more than a few of them as do all Officers. If he (or now she) is interested then a Court Martial Board decides as their Commanding Officer privately instructs, or one kisses their career goodbye. The same with Captain’s Mast, the C.O. will ask the Division Officer of Chief what outcome they want – and that is the result.

      I don’t know if the story about the Coxswain is true and whether or not he was or is being court martialed. I have not had the opportunity to read the findings about the incident that is available on-line. If the story is true and they were not / are not being punished then it is not the Navy I know or knew.

      An interesting discussion about a rather disheartening and / or disgusting actions by some in the Navy.

    4. "I don’t know if the story about the Coxswain is true and whether or not he was or is being court martialed."

      The story is factual and is taken directly from the full Navy report which has been publicly released. See the post of 30-Jun for details and a link to the report. The Coxswain committed mutiny but the Navy has opted for just a letter of reprimand - a very light punishment under the circumstances. This indicates that the Navy is more interested in the PR aspects than the disciplinary aspects.

    5. "the Navy would never tolerate independent firing in a de facto peace time environment"

      Believe me, I'm not suggesting that gunners simply open fire on anything that catches their eye, anytime they want! In this specific situation, the chain of command had clearly broken down. The boats were in the process of being boarded. Command was in the act of surrendering in violation of the Code of Conduct (Article 2). At that moment, in my mind, there was no legitimate on-scene authority and the gunner would be left to act as they saw best, according to the Code. As an analogy, if a commander (sea or land) started shooting helpless prisoners, the right to command is forfeited and those next in line are not only free, but obligated to step up and act "rightly". Here, the local command had demonstrably forfeited their command and those under him had the obligation to act according to the Code.

      This is my common sense assessment of the situation. Whether it would hold up in court, I don't know. I think it would, if presented that way.

      In any event, the premise of the post is that the action of the gunner in question did not warrant a medal and doing so sets a pretty low standard for "extraordinary courage". What do you think?

    6. First, I notice that the Navy's Ships and Patrol Craft in the Persian Gulf are responding in a different manner to the Iranian Patrol Craft (so to speak). I presume they are now transiting the area with their Crew ast GQ / Battle Stations. It's about time the U.S. Navy started firing warning shots at the Iranians. The White House shouldn't mind, after all the Iranians have their money and we have Iranian-American hostages that were paid for, so they won't raise the price.

      Our Flag Officers and Generals today are so adorned with ribbons they look like cartoon characters out of some Latin Dictators Army. I served at a time when the Senior Officers and CPO's were WWII veterans. Rarely did any of them wear more than 3 or 4 rows of ribbons -- and that included one C.O. under who I served who had the MoH.

      The military has cheapened itself by all these decorations /awards they give each other. The Flag Officers / General Officers set the standard. They take and wear the medals, so should the Sailor. She was obeying orders -- and that is an absolute in the Navy. The Navy may be flawed, at least in this incident, but it is not a democracy. We don't don't punish lower rated Sailors for the flaws of Commissioned Officers or Senior Petty Officers. That is not leadership. We will not long have a functioning military if we practice that standard. I am more surprised she was the only one who triggered of an emergency rescue signal -- or whatever they call them these days.

  3. I wonder (admittedly sitting her in ignorance of much of the situation) how much of their training, and their instructions, emphasize more of a, for lack of a better word, 'presence' role.

    From the histories I've read organizations with poor equipment that can overcome their difficulties due to a culture of getting crap done, mutual support, and a clearly defined job. Look at the cactus air force. Their equipment was fine (ostensibly) but they had major maintenance issues. They overcame them. Our early CV's had planes not up to snuff with the Zero, they figured it out. Tank crews facing panthers were able to get it done, or at least try to make a difference.

    Losses happen. It's inevitable. Surrender happens too; I don't begrudge the folks on Bataan. But now I wonder if, like we are building air wings for non peer wars, we are building other parts of the navy for patrol and presence instead of fighting.

    This sounds like a political direction created by a political culture.

    If you have a military focused on fighting and breaking things, then when you commit it to action you can expect things to get fought over and broken. This can be politically inexpedient.

    But if you create a military which is hamstrung with rules and trained to be more passive, you can send them many more places. They might be in more risk, but you don't risk politically expensive 'unfortunate incidents'. To many politicians I think its better to look tough by sending unarmed patrol boats to the gulf than deal with the fallout of armed men and women sinking an Iranian ship.

    Thus ends my grand social/political theory.

  4. "As for the Sailor manning the gun, the Navy is not a democracy -- she (or any Sailor) does not, can not, and will not decide when or when not to open fire; and has no authority to decide when or where ammo is stored, etc. Those in charge / those in command decide those matters in all cases at all time in the Navy. "

    Thank you for that. That's one of those things that is probably blindingly obvious to former service members that isn't apparent to me, a civilian.

    1. Jim, read my reply to that comment. It's not as blindingly obvious as it was portrayed to be.

  5. Look, I realise this is entirely off-topic, but I have just come across an article
    "U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, auditor finds".

    Normally, I would regard alarmist articles on the Web with due suspicion. But Reuters are not your average conspiracist website. Thy are a very highly regarded international news agency.

    Admittedly their HQ is not in the US but that does not prove them liars.

    Questions to US readers: has this been reported in the US? Does it seem credible? If it is true for the US Army, might it be equally true for the Navy, Air Force and Marines? If it were true, what would that explain?

    1. Its both correct but not really true. The accounts are a mess but since they have used computers to fix them up its created what accountants call journal entries automatically. Its these that are for the 'missing funds'. Clearly its not really 'trillions missing'

  6. Brief further enquiry: reported in US certainly,

    Memorable quotes:
    From an Army spokesman, "Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report".

    "The Inspector General largely attributed the errors to Defense Department accounting employees failing to prioritize fixing the glitches in the systems that partly caused the mistakes. In addition, more than 16,000 files vanished from the computer system of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) because of a flaw in the computing software".


    You know, if my employers had detected errors of several orders of magnitude lower than this in my accounts, or anything like that number of vanishing files, I would have been out on my ear. And quite right too.

    The Department of Defense's excuse is "making changes to one account requires changes to various other accounts. In that way, the amount of one mistake can mushroom to many times the amount of the original error".

    Any bets on anyone being found to be responsible for this, or any action being taken against them?

    1. It happens all the time.
      Its a big number, but not excessively so given the size of the organisation.

      The average typist makes a mistake every 20 keystrokes, and corrects 99% of those.
      Finding those mistakes 6months down the line is difficult, fixing them is borderline impossible, because understanding what they did, what they were supposed to do, and why they did something different, is just not on the cards, unless you can dedicate dozens of man hours to a few dollars.

      ""The Inspector General largely attributed the errors to Defense Department accounting employees failing to prioritize fixing the glitches in the systems that partly caused the mistakes. In addition, more than 16,000 files vanished from the computer system of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) because of a flaw in the computing software". "

      Well, that goes two ways.
      Pursuing the software provider is a none starter, the company that sold it will be shuttered a decade ago, the people who wrote it will have left long before that even if it is still going, and its almost certain that database has wildly exceeded specifications.

      "Accounting employees failed to prioritise"
      Ha, that goes like
      "Can I have $10mn to fix this accounting software?"

  7. This is why I hate the "POW Medal" and these sailors will get that and its ribbon, and lots of extra VA benefits with that POW status for their mental and physical sufferings. I say if a POW deserves an award, give them the appropriate one, but don't give them all a medal for surrendering.

    Yes, there is a POW medal!

  8. Liberalism is a mental disorder and PC acceptance recognition as sane is the razor blade that has been used to make the thousand cuts on US western culture.

  9. Just want to point out that Jessica Lynch was not the one who put out the false information, she openly admitted that she had not fired her weapon and was knocked out in the vehicle crash.

    The story seem to come out of the Pentagon with a lot of help from the media

    1. My point is not what she actually did (or did not do) but rather how we as a society viewed her. We viewed her as a hero and she received a medal - for doing nothing. Our heroes are now victims rather than do'ers.

      In society at large, we now view victims of shootings as heroes rather than the few people who fight back successfully in a shooting situation. We don't hear about them because they are not deemed heroes.

      We now admire victimhood more than action. This is one of the signs of the downfall of a society.

  10. Nothing good came out of that surrender to the Iranians. No one should be awarded anything for that escapade. All should be drummed out of the service with a minimum of an "Other than Honorable" separation.
    The final words on a Navy Commendation Medal state "...reflected great credit on themselves and the United States naval service." How can she stand by and let them pin that medal on her chest, hearing those words?

  11. Yes it is a frustrating world, and "I can't help but wonder if this entire episode reflects the pacification of our society at large."

    Without excusing incompetence and poor leadership, the attitude of Military Officers directly reflects the leadership (so to speak) of the Commander-in-Chief, i.e. the President.

    Would anyone in their right mind sacrifice themselves for a Lyndon Johnson given the Rules of Engagement and strategic policy emanating from the White House during Vietnam -- or for Richard Nixon who made it clear we were leaving. How about risking your life for Reagan and Casper Weinberger -- who never took revenge for the Marine Barracks Bombing, or for Clinton who tried to intervene in Somalia's affairs and then retreated after the first heavy losses. How about for George Bush who first told the Marines to take Fallujah and then when too many Iraqis were being killed gave in to Arab pressure and said stop. The Marines only returned because the General then commanding in Iraq told Bush he was sending them back in - after the election or he was quitting.

    Now we have Red Line Obama. He'll give them Gitmo Residents or money to get you out of captivity, have your hippy daddy on t.v., etc; but won't allow any military action. Well, actually they will call a four or five hour discussion meeting and wait until it is too late -- another problem solved.

    But fear not, if one has a sense of adventure and dies, then the likes of Hillary and Paneta will attend the arrival of your coffin while the President plays golf. If your family is really lucky then there will be the White House Ceremony with Husband and Wife Obama praising the dead, giving the family their husband's / son's / father's medal / decoration, and the speech telling the press how much they love the military -- opps time to go I have a golf game and she has a lunch and speech about lunches for kids in school. Leave your email, we'll get back to you -- in your next life time.

    We have the military leadership our Commander-in-Chief's actions have produced. Ever listen to that political Air Force General Hayden, who once headed the CIA or NSC, answer a question. Or, how about (as Army types note) "Peaches" Petraeus who believed it was worth 1800 lives to produce some statistical reports about reduced violent incidents -- so the Shiite and Sunni politicians could lay down together (the sheep and the lamb)and make peace in Iraq. Time to declare victory and go home.

    Again, we have the military our politicians and their appointed Generals and Flag Officers have produced.

  12. I finally read the Incident Report. The conduct and performance of that Command and the actions of the Lt (Officer in Charge) make the actions of the Officers and C.O. (who I knew from College) on the U.S.S. Stark look professional.

    The Officer in Charge and the Senior Petty Officers should have been thrown out of the Navy. The Officer after he was Court Martialed. The Coxswain, as noted in too kindly Navy parlance on p.164 committed mutiny and should have been court martialed, received a long sentence, and sent to wherever they send military prisoners these days. I am certain it is a much kinder place than the was the Naval Prison at Portsmouth before it was closed.

    The statement by the Officer was outrageous. It demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer, outright stupidity, and cowardice. He didn't want to get anybody killed or start a war -- was afraid he might upset the CinC's nuclear negotiations with Iran. What the hell does he think the responsibility of a Navy Officer. We can't blame the lower rated enlisted -- you can't drill discipline and obedience into lower rated E.M.'s and then be unhappy when they act as conditioned and obey their orders.

    The E.M. commanding the first patrol craft thought he was senior to a Commissioned Officer and the schmuck Lt. accepted that behavior.

    As simple as they made navigation for them and they didn't know where they were?

    What I find hard to believe is that the Navy released these embarrassing findings and didn't classify them.

    It was probably the statement by the Lt. that he didn't want to upset Obama's negotiations with the Iranians that got him off so easily and the fact that the Lt. went along with the Coxswain's mutiny that got him off - at least in today's Navy.

    1. Cliff, now you understand where my comments and thoughts were coming from. I get the sense that you didn't quite believe my "statements of fact" and probably thought I was sensationalizing a bit. Rest assured that when I make statements of fact, they are just that. I also try to offer citations for any facts that are out of the ordinary - hence the link to the actual report. When I engage in conjecture or opinion, I try to make clear that that's what I'm doing although even then I try to base it on fact and logic.

      So, after reading the report, you're at the same place I am - female gunner issue notwithstanding. I compare the group's actions (most notably the command element) to the Code and can only conclude that there should be multiple Courts Martial among the boat crews and at least a few levels of command above them. The upper command levels were guilty of dereliction of duty for having allowed the chronic conditions (equipment shortages, maintenance shortcomings, training failures, oversight, lack of planning, etc.) that prevailed to occur.

      Regarding the Lt.'s rationale, and this is speculation on my part, he had no thoughts of international geopolitical machinations as the Iranians were approaching. He was likely just scared witless and surrendered. The political rationale was something he or his lawyer came up with well after the fact. As I say, speculation on my part. Seriously, I doubt he even was aware of any negotiations with Iran at the time of the incident.

      I hope you've gone back through the recent archives and the read the three or four posts I've done on the subject. The one about surrender being unnecessary will help with perspective on this.

      I've enjoyed your comments. I hope you'll continue to visit and comment. Perhaps you'll be motivated to author a guest post at some point!

    2. "Regarding the Lt.'s rationale, and this is speculation on my part, he had no thoughts of international geopolitical machinations as the Iranians were approaching. He was likely just scared witless and surrendered."

      During The invasion of Iraq in 2003, anyone near the Iran-Iraq border was told in no uncertain terms to avoid conflict with the Iranians, who were understandably concerned that the most powerful force in a generation was sat on their paper thin border.

      Avoid conflict with Iran has been the mantra ever since, and there has been every indication that anyone who failed to do so would be punished, officially or otherwise.

      Iranian Special Forces caught with the insurgents were sent home, to be sent right back, Iranian arms shipments were intercepted sporadically, and none violently, because upstairs didnt want to "provoke" Iran.

      He might not have been aware of specific negotiations, but do not provoke Iran has been the first order of business longer than he's been in the Navy.

  13. The stranger this gets, the more I wonder if my conspiracy theory idea fits. It would actually explain a lot of things that don't make sense otherwise if the whole incident was some kind of setup. The LT's comments sure sound like he was programmed to think a certain way. Very troubling. Maybe I'm crazy to bring this up. Then again, maybe not.


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