Tag Archives: Commentary

Book Review: Countdown: H Hour by Tom Kratman

Countdown: H Hour is the third installment in the Countdown series, hopefully there are plenty more still to come as this just built onto the already strong premise of the first two books.  This book happens at the same time as the events in M Day but in the Phillipines as part of the Regiment conducts a completely separate mission to rescue a rich Phillipino businessman who has been kidnapped by a group of Moro terrorists from the Basilan region.  The action is almost non-stop as the short battalion for the mission conducts operations in Somalia, Basilan, and around Manila in the course of the book.  Adam, the Somali kidnapped in the first book, and the reason M-Day was founded, makes a small cameo appearance in the book.

The usual subtle and not-so-subtle political commentary is sprinkled throughout the book.  Libs will hate that although I love it.  I have about as much use for the Tranzis of the world as does Mr. Kratman.  He includes the usual afterword designed to set the brains , if they have any, Tranzis of the world on fire.  He also teases us with the title of the next book in the series, Criminal Enterprise, with no idea of release date.

The only complaint I have about this book as I have with most books is that I read it too fast.  That is my fault though because I am a fast reader.  At 624 pages it is not a small book.  Tom Kratman has once again produced a fast paced, exciting narrative that also throws some food for thought into the mix.  Another excellent work that I highly recommend to anyway into combat SF or combat fiction.

Update on SFC Walter Taylor

Saw this update on SFC Taylor’s case yesterday and decided to add it to my page as well.  From the LA Times: Court-martial decision postponed for soldier in Afghan shooting.  His Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a Grand Jury, was held last week and now the case in in the hands of the reviewing officer.  She will review the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing and then make a recommendation to Taylor’s Brigade commander who will endorse that recommendation or not and then send it to the JMTC commander in Graf who is the General Court Martial Convening Authority.  The JMTC commander makes the final decision on whether this case should go to trial or if Taylor should face, a lesser Court Martial, administrative punishment, or even no further action.

All that being said, I would guess that at a minimum Taylor faces a Special Court Martial, probably a Special BCD.  The nature of what has been reported so far makes it clear that Taylor is being prosecute as an example to others.  Whether that is good military policy is besides the point, the army does stuff like this sometimes.  I will say that in my experience, if it does go to a Court Martial Taylor will get a fairer hearing than he would in a civilian court.  His CM Panel, the military version of a jury, will consist of people his grade or higher both officer and enlisted if he opts that, and he would be stupid not to.  The panel are people that understand the military and the pressures in combat.

I have no worries that if it goes to trial he will win.  The problem I have is that even if he wins, his career is now damaged because of the massive publicity surrounding the case.  That is something he cannot get away from.  It will also haunt him as he goes in front of a selection board for promotion.  The perception could be that he hurt the army and he could therefor later be denied promotion or even selected for elimination and the case could have nothing overt to do with it but it will always be there.  The army is a small place and institutional memory is long, especially about people who are perceived as tarnishing the Army Reputation.

A Travesty Calling for Action

In today’s edition of Stars and Stripes and the LA Times is an article about a combat engineer facing charges for actions he took in combat in Afghanistan last year.  The gist of the story is that the soldier involved shot an unarmed female in the middle of a firefight who was moving towards the rear of her vehicle.  The description of the incident from the article is here:

His convoy was reeling from a roadside bomb, his fellow soldiers were engaged in combat with insurgents and a mysterious black car had just screeched to a stop in the middle of the firefight. Some nine minutes later, a black door opens.
Second 1: A figure dressed in dark, bulky clothing emerges.
Second 2: The figure begins walking toward the trunk.
Second 3: Taylor, with five wounded comrades behind him, sees a thin trigger wire seeming to snake directly toward the black car. Could there be a second bomb in the trunk?
Second 4: Taylor squeezes the trigger on his M-4 carbine. The figure crumples to the dirt.
The figure was not an insurgent, but Dr. Aqilah Hikmat, a 49-year-old mother of four who headed the obstetrics department at the nearby Ghazni provincial hospital. Also dead inside the car were Hikmat’s 18-year-old son and her 16-year-old niece. Hikmat’s husband, in the front seat, was wounded.

SFC Taylor now faces charges of negligent homicide in the woman’s death.  If the facts as presented in the article are correct then I got out of the army just in time.  This is an example of the worst kind of second guessing of combat decisions.  Prosecutions such as this are likely to lead to more of our soldiers hesitating in combat and will probably lead to more GIs getting killed because of hesitation in combat.  It would be one thing if he had just shot the woman out of hand but to prosecute him for a combat decision is unconscionable, something I never thought I would see coming out of the US military.  Apparently I was wrong, the forces of idiocy are getting stronger every day.  Policies like this will go far towards making the US military just as toothless as are most European militaries.

Being a combat vet myself I think it is a crying shame that they are making an example out of SFC Taylor.  Based on the circumstances in the article, I would have killed her too.  The bottom line is that in the middle of a firefight you don’t always have the luxury of waiting to find out if someone is hostile or not.  If she had a weapon, should he wait until she starts firing before engaging, I think not.  He made the right cal and now he is getting the shaft.  Shame on the Army for even bringing charges.

Hopefully the panel at his court-martial sees sense and rightfully acquits him.  Something like this just calls out for our support of the soldier.  I highly encourage everybody reading this article to write the secretary of the Army directly and protest this armchair quarterbacking of a combat leaders decision made in the heat of battle.

The Honorable John McHugh
Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0101


Book Review: The Anabasis by Xenophon

I read part of this work in High School over twenty years ago and decided a few weeks ago to finish reading it. Now that I am done, I wonder why I waited so long. The book was written by Xenophon, and ancient Greek soldier and general, in the late 4th Century BC.

Xenophon’s account in The Anabasis is one of the first true (in several senses of the word) adventure stories to be transmitted from antiquity. There is as much adventure here as will be found in any modern day work of fiction. One of the things that makes this book so great is that as I was reading the book it was constantly in the back of my mind that these events really happened. The book is part adventure and part autobiography told from the 3rd person.

The background is that in 402 B.C. Cyrus the Younger of Persia hired an army of Greek mercenaries to help him overthrow his brother Artaxerxes II, the legitimate ruler of the Persian Empire. Everything went swimmingly until Cyrus was killed in battle. The Greek army hired by Cyrus was in a tight position, Artaxerxes did not have the force to crush without taking unacceptable casualties but he equally did not want them to escape. The Persian answer was to feign letting the Greeks start on their way home providing them provisions, guides, and quarters along the way. The the Persians tricked the Greek generals into attending a dinner under flag of truce and had all the Greek generals executed.

It is at this point that Xenophon steps forward and is elected general and co-leader of the remaining Greeks. The rest of the story is a recounting of the many trials and tribulations the Greek army of Ten Thousand makes its way home fighting numerous battles, encountering hostile people, terrain, and weather.

The Route of Xenophons March Up Country

The only complaint, if complaint it can be called, is that the speeches ascribed to various characters are not 100% accurate. This is true of many ancient Greek and Roman writers. What they did was to invent a speech that in its essentials expressed the same message as the actual speech did, perhaps they dressed it up a little. The ancient historians did not have a problem with this practice at all and just considered it god history, that is not true of modern historical practice.

In summation, if anyone would like to read the ancients and does not know where to start, The Anabasisis a good place to start. It is a great story and Xenophon’s prose is concise enough to not bore the casual reader.


Book Review: Countdown: M Day by Tom Kratman

This is the second installment in the countdown series, hopefully there are plenty more still to come as this just built onto the already strong premise of the first book. The premise of this book is that after the completion of the mission in the first book the company Stauer created found a home in Guyana and incorporated as M-Day Inc., now the company must defend Guyana and itself from an invasion by Venezuela. Hugo Chavez wants the invasion to distract his people from their deteriorating situation at home. There is a lot more action in this book than the first of the series. This book continues Kratman’s thinly veiled attacks on liberalism and post-modern thought.
This is still a great read though and I recommend it highly. There are also some really great parts but they are included in the Spoiler below the fold:

Continue reading Book Review: Countdown: M Day by Tom Kratman