Yom HaShoah 2017

Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day*) 2017. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, this year’s Yom HaShoah focused on six torchlighters. The folks at Yad Vashem define a torchlighter as:

Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Their wartime experiences reflect the central theme chosen by Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day. The torches are lit during the central memorial ceremony held at Yad Vashem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

This year’s six torchlighters have provided video testimonies. You can see them all at the link, but I’ll post a couple below.

The US Holocaust Museum has also stated that the President will be speaking at their Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the Capitol tomorrow. The President was able to release a video statement of remembrance of Holocaust victims today that did not forget to mention Jews.

Today is also the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide. As the LA Times reports:

Turkey has long denied that a genocide took place, arguing that the killings can’t be separated from the historical context of global upheaval during World War I, and that many Turks also were killed. But most historians outside Turkey describe a state-organized campaign of ethnic cleansing that meets the definition of genocide.

Schiff and U.S. Rep. Dave Trott (R-Michigan) last month introduced a resolution asking Congress to formally recognize the genocide.

“Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire undertook a brutal campaign of murder, rape, and displacement against the Armenian people that took the lives of 1.5 million men, women, and children in the first genocide of the 20th century,” Schiff said in a statement. “Genocide is not a historic relic — even today hundreds of thousands of religious minorities face existential threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is therefore all the more pressing that the Congress recognize the historical fact of the Armenian Genocide and stand against modern day genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Schiff has, for years, sought official recognition of the genocide from Congress.

The release of the movie The Promise, which focuses on the Armenian genocide is being released to coincide with the anniversary, which should keep this horrible, and often poorly remembered, if not forgotten, historical atrocity in the news. And irk the Turks.

Update at 9:33 PM EDT

Commenter Debbie provided this interesting link to an NPR report regarding the Armenian Genocide.

Recently Discovered Telegram Reveals Evidence For Armenian Genocide

NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks with Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian at Clark University, who uncovered an original telegram as evidence for the Armenian genocide.

We now return you to your previously scheduled post.

I’ll leave you all with a video of Professor Norman Goda, The Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies, Department of History, University of Florida. I had the honor and privilege to arrange for Professor Goda to be the keynote speaker for USAWC’s 2014 Holocaust and Genocide Remembrance Month. The video below is based on his book: Hitler’s Shadow: NAZI War Criminals, US Intelligence, and the Cold War.

* I do not know why there is an International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January and Yom HaShoah in April. Though the latter is an official holiday in Israel.



French Election Results are Coming In

The polls have closed in France and the election results are starting to come in and it looks like Macron versus Le Pen in the second round. From The Guardian‘s live blog:

14:06

14:01

Initial vote estimate: Macron and Le Pen through to runoff



The First Round of the French National Elections are Only Hours Away

France holds the first, primary round of its national elections tomorrow. There are eleven candidates running from the extreme right to the far left. The Daily Beast‘s Christopher Dickey and Erin Salezky have the details:

Let’s be just that blunt. These elections could fuck us all. They have turned into an insane gamble—Russian roulette (and we use the term advisedly) with at least two of the chambers loaded—and the implications for the United States are huge.

The biggest winner in the forthcoming French presidential elections may well be Russian President Vladimir Putin, in fact. And while he might have played a few of his usual dirty tricks—indeed, in 2014 a Russian bank funded the party of Marine Le Pen, the current first-round leader in the polls—Putin can now sit back and watch the French themselves try to destroy the European Union and the NATO alliance he hates so much.

Less than three weeks from now, in the final round of the presidential elections, the only choice left to the voters of France could well be between Le Pen, a crypto-fascist, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a charismatic communist, both of whom are strongly anti-EU and anti-NATO.

Victory for either one would mean an end to the political, diplomatic, and economic order that has protected the United States as well as Europe for the last 70 years, preventing the kinds of cataclysms—World Wars I and II—that cost millions of lives in the first half of the 20th century while containing first Soviet and now Russian adventurism.

There are other possibilities, but as the French prepare to go to the polls (or flee them) this Sunday, April 23, the possible outcomes are a total crapshoot. The four top candidates in a field of 11 are in a virtual dead heat; the differences between their scores is within the acknowledged margins of error by the pollsters. The top two finishers will vie against each other in a run-off on May 7. And the reason something like panic has set in among many French, from the heights of the political establishment to conversation over espressos at the counters in working-class cafés, is that the candidate with the most solid base is Le Pen, while the one with the most momentum is the far-left Mélenchon.

Much, much more at the link.

Sp we wait for the results of tomorrow’s primary. And then we wait for another two weeks to see just how much more interference there is in the French elections by the Russians before knowing just how much damage may then be done to the EU and NATO. Campaigning for tomorrow’s elections was suspended, per French election law, last night, but events that could effect the election continue. This includes the potential political fallout from Thursday’s attack on French law enforcement at the Champs Elysees* and an orderly arrest of an armed man at the Gare du Nord in Paris earlier today.

Stay frosty and sleep well!

* This was a strange attack in terms of what is being reported as motivation. While it is true that a note regarding ISIL was found next to the deceased shooter after he had been killed by French police, he had a long criminal history and it has been reported that he hated law enforcement as a result. So while ISIL has claimed responsibility, it is unclear what, exactly, ISIL actually had to do with the attack. Cheurfi’s lawyer had this to say:

Jean-Laurent Panier, who defended the suspected Champs-Elysée gunman in a theft trial, said he showed “no sign that he belonged to any movement, or of radicalisation”.

Mr Panier added: “He was very solitary, someone who was particularly isolated. He lived with his mother and had contact with his father, and there was a family that tried to support him but felt powerless.”

Cheurfi had a long criminal record and spent more than a decade in prison for attempted murder.

The lawyer painted a picture of a naive man, who took part in a theft and was “left to face the music” when his accomplices fled.

“I never got a sense that this was someone who would be radicalised,” Mr Panier said.

And:

He had been questioned in February over threats to kill police officers but allowed to go free.

He was not on the police “S” watchlist of known terror suspects although he appeared on the counter-terrorist services’ radar last December, according to ‘Le Monde’, slightly earlier than previously thought.

At the time, police were tipped off that he wanted to “kill police officers to avenge Muslims killed in Syria”, said the newspaper citing security forces. He was also seeking weapons and a way of contacting an Isil contact in Iraq or Syria. A judicial inquiry was opened in Meaux but this was not terror-related.

Regardless, whatever political impact results does not have to, and likely will not be, related to whatever Cheurfi’s actual motivations were.



Annals of Strategic Communication: The Carl Vinson Task Force Miscommunication

Joint Publication 5-0/Joint Operation Planning defines strategic communication as:

Focused United States Government efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of United States Government interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power.

The misstatements and miscommunications regarding where the USS Carl Vinson Task Force is and what it is doing have made US strategic communication, both in general and in regard to the DPRK, much, much harder and much more problematic.

I think, however, that the Occam’s Razor explanation for what happened is the most likely one. Here’s what I think happened:

  1. Admiral Harris, Commander US Pacific Command (USPACOM), informed Secretary of Defense Mattis that he had issued a Fragmentary Order cancelling the Carl Vinson Task Force’s port call in Australia and redirecting the strike group to the Sea of Japan to show the colors.
  2. The DOD notified the White House – most likely either through the Liaison Officer or through the National Security Staff.
  3. A copy of the Fragmentary Order was filed.
  4. Secretary Mattis misspoke on 11 April, because he hadn’t actually seen the FRAGORD, that the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed immediately to the Sea of Japan.
  5. The President was briefed, without any specific details, because no one on the National Security Staff had them, that the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed to the Sea of Japan.
  6. The President stated the Carl Vinson Task Force was headed to the Sea of Japan in his Fox Business News interview.
  7. The Carl Vinson Task Force steamed south from Singapore, as ordered, to take part in a scheduled exercise with the Australian Navy.
  8. As is often the case, the US Navy, through the Public Affairs Office, released pictures of the Carl Vinson Task Force passing through the Sunda Strait – 3,500 miles from the Sea of Japan off of the Korean peninsula.

Talking Points Memo has a full timeline at this link.

How did all this miscommunication happen? Simply put – there are almost no political appointees at the Pentagon (or anywhere else in the US government) right now. Secretary of Defense is, essentially, working without a team. He has no deputy, under, assistant deputy, and deputy assistant secretaries, nor does he have any directors, deputy directors, and/or special assistants at the Department of Defense – though several designees have been named for some of these positions. He also does not have any Service Secretaries in place  – though we have have three designated nominees. And none of the deputy, under, assistant deputy, and deputy assistant secretaries, nor does he have any directors, deputy directors, and/or special assistants at each of the Services. All the Secretary of Defense has is whichever Trump campaign and transition personnel are on the DOD and Service Beachhead Teams – none of whom have been chosen by Secretary Mattis. Right now you have a DOD Secretary, the DOD and Service Beachhead Teams from the transition, and then the career civil servants (both Senior Executives and General Schedule) and uniformed military personnel. Basically the entire layer of politically appointed managers, senior to junior, are completely missing. As a result, things are going to fall between the cracks, such as the exact nature of Admiral Harris’s FRAGORD to reposition the Carl Vinson Task Force.

Aside from the bog standard embarrassment of having the President, the Secretary of Defense (a retired USMC 4 Star), and the White House Press Secretary (a US Navy Reserve Commander) not knowing where a carrier strike group is, this is also a significant strategic communication problem. This morning the Associated Press reported (h/t and via: Talking Points Memo) that both our Asian-Pacific partners and competitors are disconcerted and wary given the President and the Administration’s seeming inability to communicate accurate information.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Unpredictable. Unhinged. Dangerous.

Many South Koreans are using those words to describe the president of their most important ally, rather than the leader of their archrival to the North. They worry that President Donald Trump’s tough, unorthodox talk about North Korea’s nuclear program is boosting already-high animosity between the rival Koreas.

The Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper said recently that Trump is playing a “dangerous card” with his verbal threats, risking a miscalculation by Pyongyang and a war on the peninsula.

What the US is currently strategically communicating in regard to the ongoing DPRK nuclear weapon and missile development programs is not exactly inspiring confidence on the Korean Peninsula.

Read more



Cleveland Murder Suspect Update

Pennsylvania State Police are reporting that Steve Stephens, wanted by the Cleveland Police Department for the murder, streamed live via Facebook, of 74 year old Robert Godwin, has killed himself after being spotted by law enforcement near Erie, Pennsylvania.

Here is the latest statement from Cleveland Police Chief Williams regarding the case.



The Turkish Referendum: The US is Now on the Wrong Side of History

Turkey held a referendum yesterday in regard to the structure of the Turkish government. On its face it was intended to modernize the 1980 constitution, which was drafted after the last military takeover to preserve the Kemalist system. The referendum involved constitutional reform that increases the power of the President of Turkey.

The plan turns Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential republic. Among the numerous changes:

  • The role of prime minister will be scrapped. The new post of vice president, possibly two or three, will be created.
  • The president becomes the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, and retains ties to a political party.
  • He or she will be given sweeping new powers to appoint ministers, prepare the budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree.
  • The president alone will be able to announce a state of emergency and dismiss parliament.
  • Parliament will lose its right to scrutinise ministers or propose an enquiry. However, it will be able to begin impeachment proceedings or investigate the president with a majority vote by MPs. Putting the president on trial would require a two-thirds majority.
  • The number of MPs will increase from 550 to 600.
  • Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on the same day every five years. The president will be limited to two terms.

There appear to be a number of observed and reported irregularities in the voting and the tallying of the votes regarding the referendum.

As Arab News reports:

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s two main opposition parties on Sunday said they would challenge the results putting the ‘Yes’ camp ahead in the referendum on expanding the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after alleged violations.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said that whatever the final result, it would challenge two-thirds of the vote, saying: “There is an indication of a 3-4 percentage point manipulation of the vote.”
The deputy head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bulent Tezcan, denounced “violations” by the election authorities in allowing ballot papers without an official stamp to be used.
Another CHP deputy head, Erdal Aksunger, said it could appeal up to 60 percent of the vote.
“Believe me, this election is not over,” he told CNN Turk, quoted by the Dogan news agency. “This is totally invalid. We are declaring this here.”
He said that the CHP was appealing 37 percent of the ballot box results, and this figure could eventually rise to 60 percent. “Since the morning, we have detected violations,” he said.
Turkish media said that CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu was convening a special meeting of its executive board.

The EU had its monitors on site because Turkey still has an open application to join the European Union. Both the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) sent monitors.

… observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said on April 17 that the legal framework for the referendum “remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum.”

The monitors also said the referendum campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and that the counting of ballots in the April 16 referendum had been marred by “late procedural changes.”

President Erdogan responded by calling out the EU and its monitors:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan treated a crowd of supporters gathered outside his presidential palace on Monday evening to a speech laced with invective against Europe, saying his victory in a referendum on Sunday took place under conditions that were democratic beyond compare.

“We don’t care about the opinions of ‘Hans’ or ‘George,’” Erdogan said, using the names as stand-ins for his European critics. “All debates about the constitutional referendum are now over.”

This, unfortunately, fits with President Erdogan’s ongoing attempts to reorient Turkey away from an EU he perceives as perpetually dragging its feet regarding Turkish membership (he is not wrong) and from the EU’s attempts to restrict his power and his remaking of Turkish politics and society. Even more unfortunate was the President’s response to the outcome of the referendum.

I think that it is highly likely that despite what the EU monitors have observed and reported, and the challenges by Turkish opposition parties, that the outcome of the referendum will stand. This will significantly increase President Erdogan’s power, which he is eligible to wield all the way through the 2029 Turkish elections if repeatedly reelected. In many ways this referendum put the democratic process to work to achieve a very anti-democratic and authoritarian outcome, or at least an anti-democratic outcome that will allow Erdogan to become more authoritarian. In many ways it is the logical follow on from last summer’s abortive coup. Regardless, it is neither a positive outcome for Turkey, nor was the President’s response to this in his call to Erdogan a good thing.

(Full disclosure: One of my former students, from my first year assigned to USAWC, has been accused by the Erdogan government of participation in the failed coup. I was his front line supervisor/academic advisor and his research advisor/supervisor. I have been unable to reach him or his wife since the night the coup began. The last time I heard from him was in 2015 when I wrote a letter of reference for his application to a Belgian graduate program while he was assigned at NATO headquarters. He is an excellent officer, a true gentleman, and a loyal Turk.)



Breaking News For Those in Cleveland, Ohio: Murder Suspect Armed and Dangerous

The Cleveland Police Department has issued a warning regarding Steve Stephens who earlier today streamed his murdering of an elderly man live via Facebook.

Cleveland Police are currently investigating a homicide at 635 E. 93.

No additional victims have been found. Officers continue to search multiple areas.

Suspect did broadcast the killing on Facebook Live and has claimed to have committed multiple other homicides which are yet to be verified.

Suspect in this case is a bm Steve Stephens 6’1 244 bald with a full beard. Wearing dark blue and grey or black striped polo shirt. White or cream colored SUV. Armed and dangerous. If seen call 9-1-1. Do not approach.

The Jester’s Internet AWACS social media tracker (signals intelligence for social media) is currently offline, but if he gets it back up, I’ll post the link.

As a general warning, please be careful on social media if you decide you want to investigate this on your own. Many tweets include the video of Stephens committing murder.

For those in the Cleveland, OH area: stay alert and stay safe!

I’ll update as further information becomes available.

Update at 5:50 PM EDT

Update at 6:00 PM EDT

Some good, and tragically unfortunate, advice in this tweet:

Also Cleveland 19 News’ Shanice Dunning has an interview with the victim’s family:

Update at 6:27 PM EDT

Here’s the link to the live feed of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Chief Calvin D. Williams media briefing:

Live Stream Two

Update at 6:45 PM EDT

Cleveland PD livestreaming the press briefing:

Update at 8:40 PM EDT