Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners



Quotes of the Day:

“Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.”
- George Washington

“In this, as in all our foreign wars, we never really established rapport. This was largely due to our overinflated hypnosis with the myth that the American way – in economics, politics, sociology, manners, morals, military equipment, methodology, organization, tactics, etc. – is automatically and unchallengeably the best (really the only) way to do things. This failing may well be the area of greatest weakness for the future of American arms.”
- Unnamed Vietnam-era General Officer, quoted in Douglas Kinnard, The War Managers: American Generals Reflect on Vietnam

"The U.S. approach to contesting revisionist, revolutionary, and rogue powers has relied almost exclusively on conventional capabilities. In U.S. contests with other state actors, DoS has typically taken the lead—exerting pressure through traditional tools of diplomacy and sanctions—with DoD providing defense and deterrence and with the Intelligence Community providing intelligence. And the U.S. response to nonstate actors has been dominated by conventional DoD capabilities, enabled by DoS and the Intelligence Community. Strikingly—despite the successes of the indigenous-centric U.S. irregular warfare capability against these threats, particularly when supported by comparable interagency capabilities—DoD does not yet have the organizational structures for its irregular warfare capability to lead such a response.We anticipate that an effective political warfare capability would require developing and synchronizing three core types of functional activities:
 
 Irregular warfare: DoD would remain the proponent for U.S. irregular warfare, which involves activities “in support of predetermined United States policy and military objectives conducted by, with, and through regular forces, irregular forces, groups, and individuals participating in competition between state and non-state actors short of traditional armed conflict.”20 This would include unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, and stability operations.
 Expeditionary diplomacy: DoS and USAID would become the proponents for expeditionary diplomacy, which would entail diplomats working in “fluid situations without a strong central host government or U.S. embassy infrastructure to promote the local government’s rule of law, reconstruction and economic development, and delivery of services.”21 This would include support to military forces during military operations and as part of a whole-of-government approach in preconflict or postconflict settings, functioning as a “form of asymmetric warfare in crisis countries, particularly those with crumbling regimes or new unstable governments.”
Covert political action: The Intelligence Community would become the proponent for covert political action, which would cause “economic dislocation, distortion of political processes or manipulation of information.”24 In addition, the Intelligence Community would continue to provide intelligence to support operations in situations short of armed conflict; however, this intelligence collection and analysis may become increasingly focused on understanding how civilian populations and partner forces may be influenced using nonlethal means."
- An American Way of Political Warfare, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE300/PE304/RAND_PE304.pdf

1. Podcast: The Indigenous Approach - Concept of Resistance: Part 2 - Resistance in the Indo-Pacific
2. Biden Loses Top Pentagon Asia Hand
3. Is Cuba’s Communist Party Finally Losing Its Hold on the Country?
4. Chinese oil companies fill void in Iraq
5. Opinion | Civilized nations’ efforts to deter Russia and China are starting to add up
6. It’s Time to Bring Back USIA
7. Opinion | Russia and China are trying to control the Internet — even as they censor it
8. The Life Cycle Of A COVID-19 Vaccine Lie
9. The U.S. Has Had 'Vaccine Passports' Before—And They Worked
10. Manufactured Whistleblowing: Data Leaks as Subversion
11. Military special operations facing 4% budget cut
12. China Blasts NBC for Using ‘Incomplete’ Map on Olympic Broadcast
13. SEALs have a new target: Congress
14. Proposed 'Hack-Back' Bill Tells DHS To Study Allowing Companies To Retaliate
15. Quad: Build Better Alliances
16. Warnings That Work: Combating Misinformation Without Deplatforming
17. A $500 Rip It? How grilled cheese and energy drinks fueled the Afghanistan withdrawal



1. Podcast: The Indigenous Approach - Concept of Resistance: Part 2 - Resistance in the Indo-Pacific

It was an honor to participate in this with the current 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group commander and the future 1-1- SFG battalion commander.


Concept of Resistance: Part 2 - Resistance in the Indo-Pacific
  • Government
Listen on Apple Podcasts 
In Part 2 of our series on Resistance, we examine what Resistance looks like in the INDOPACOM AoR with the past, present and future commanders of our forward-stationed battalion in the region.

Guests for this episode:
Lt. Col. Erik Davis is the current commander of 1st Bn, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa, Japan.

Lt. Col. Ron Garberson works in the Operations Directorate at Special Operations Command - Pacific (SOCPAC) and is the next commander of 1st Bn, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Okinawa, Japan.

Col. (Ret) Dave Maxwell is a senior fellow at Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and was commander of 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group from 2000 to 2002. He's instructed at the National War College and Georgetown University. With over 20 years of service in the Indo-Pacific, he's an expert on the subjects of SOF and resistance.

*To join the conversation, navigate to the 1SFC CAG page on the SIPR portal, where you will find a button for the CDR's Blog*

Links for this topic:

Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship to Democracy”
https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/resource/from-dictatorship-to-democracy-a-conceptual-framework-for-liberation/


Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies (ARIS) Project:
https://www.soc.mil/ARIS/ARIS.html

Resistance Operating Concept (ROC):
https://jsou.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=54216464


2. Biden Loses Top Pentagon Asia Hand
A good man, team player, and selfless civil servant.

“The bottom line is that Helvey was a great respected leader in [Indo-Pacific security affairs] and whatever he was called on to do he stepped up to the plate on,” said Eric Sayers, a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former top civilian aide at U.S. Pacific Command. “If the Senate wants to talk a good game about the importance of Asia and the Biden administration moving toward China the most important thing they can do in the next few weeks is to confirm Ely and Dan Kritenbrink.”
Biden Loses Top Pentagon Asia Hand
Foreign Policy · by Jack Detsch · July 22, 2021
Yet more turnover at the Pentagon for the administration.
By Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy’s Pentagon and national security reporter.
NEW FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Click + to receive email alerts for new stories written by  Jack Detsch
Then-Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 22, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty Images
The U.S. Defense Department’s acting top Asia official has left the building’s policy shop, a blow for the Pentagon’s policy team as the Biden administration battles Congress to bring more nominees on board.
David Helvey, who was serving as acting assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, left the Pentagon earlier this month to become a senior advisor at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, according to a source familiar with the move and Helvey’s LinkedIn page. Kenneth Handelman, a Pentagon civil servant with two decades of experience, will take over the role.
The U.S. Defense Department’s acting top Asia official has left the building’s policy shop, a blow for the Pentagon’s policy team as the Biden administration battles Congress to bring more nominees on board.
David Helvey, who was serving as acting assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, left the Pentagon earlier this month to become a senior advisor at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, according to a source familiar with the move and Helvey’s LinkedIn page. Kenneth Handelman, a Pentagon civil servant with two decades of experience, will take over the role.
Helvey, who had served under the Obama and Trump administrations, had been held over under Biden—elevated to the Pentagon’s top Asia job as the White House’s pick for the fully confirmed role, Ely Ratner, awaits Senate confirmation. Ratner is among several Pentagon nominees being held up in the Senate. Some Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have blocked Biden nominees over objections to the White House’s foreign-policy decisions, including to approve of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.
“The bottom line is that Helvey was a great respected leader in [Indo-Pacific security affairs] and whatever he was called on to do he stepped up to the plate on,” said Eric Sayers, a nonresident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former top civilian aide at U.S. Pacific Command. “If the Senate wants to talk a good game about the importance of Asia and the Biden administration moving toward China the most important thing they can do in the next few weeks is to confirm Ely and Dan Kritenbrink.”
Kritenbrink, whom Biden nominated to lead the State Department’s Asia policy in April, has yet to be confirmed.
Even though Helvey was not expected to stay for the long term, he had worked closely with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, serving at his side during the Pentagon leader’s first overseas trip to Japan, South Korea, India, and Afghanistan in March. He has served in high-ranking Asia jobs in the agency since 2004. Helvey’s departure leaves the agency without a principal deputy assistant secretary and creates more churn in the Defense Department shop responsible for overseeing both the Indo-Pacific pivot and the Afghanistan withdrawal. This uncertainty in staffing comes as the Pentagon is working to help find U.S. and overseas locations to help house interpreters and their families who supported the American military.
One defense official, speaking to Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity, said that Handelman, Helvey’s replacement, would bring expertise on Afghanistan to the job as the Pentagon has honed its focus on helping relocate visa applicants as well as the U.S. troop withdrawal, which is over 95 percent complete.
Helvey is the second top acting official to land a job at the U.S. Mission to NATO in recent weeks. Stacy Cummings, who had been performing the duties of undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, is leaving for a different job in Brussels, Politico first reported. Helvey is also leaving as the Pentagon is putting the finishing touches on a global review of U.S. military posture. Austin is set to leave on a multiday swing of Southeast Asia on Friday, including Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The Senate has confirmed six Biden nominees at the Pentagon so far, including Austin and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, Austin said on Wednesday. Ten more picks are awaiting a vote, and five more are still backed up in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Michael Brown, Biden’s pick to be the agency’s top acquisition official, told Austin last week that he planned to withdraw from consideration for the job, facing a Pentagon inspector general investigation that alleged that he went around federal hiring strictures when working for the agency’s Defense Innovation Unit.
Brown’s decision to drop his bid leaves the Biden administration without nominees for 26 of the Pentagon’s 60 Senate-confirmed roles, according to a Washington Post tracker of national security nominations. And even if they clear obstacles on the path to confirmation, Biden’s picks could be waiting a while. The Senate is set to go on a monthlong recess on Aug. 9.
The White House had hoped to avoid staffing shortages that consistently plagued the Trump administration. Biden’s number of appointees is similar to those confirmed during the Trump administration at the same time, but it is nearly 150 less than at a similar point in the Obama administration.
“This is something that the deputy secretary and I, and … all of my leadership remained focused on each and every day,” Austin said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And we continue to work with the White House to make sure that we have quality and qualified applicants to fill these seats.”
Jack Detsch is Foreign Policy’s Pentagon and national security reporter. Twitter: @JackDetsch
Tag: China
NEW FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Want to read more on this topic or region? Click + to receive email alerts when new stories are published on  China
Read More

Afghanistan will get an injection of contractor support and planes for its beleaguered Air Force.
Foreign Policy · by Jack Detsch · July 22, 2021



3. Is Cuba’s Communist Party Finally Losing Its Hold on the Country?

Can there be "democtratic compromise" with the communist party of Cuba? I think not.

Excerpts:
It is this political reality, along with the fallout that the Administration could incur from conservative Cuban Americans in Florida in next year’s congressional elections—and particularly in the Democrats’ bid to unseat Senator Marco Rubio—that has effectively kept the Administration from taking decisive action. Garcia told me that it was his understanding that the Administration had been planning some good-will gestures to Cuba, including opening up remittances again and easing travel restrictions, but, since the uprising, making any such blandishments looked difficult. “To do so now,” he said, could appear to Cuban Americans in Florida as “appeasement.”
To avoid a crisis of increasing proportions, both leaders must find a way to persuade their more intransigent allies that the best thing for Cuba, and for the United States, is renewed engagement, and also a credible and sustained opening within Cuba that can address the needs of its citizens and reduce the stresses that now threaten the island’s stability. If the Cuban Communist Party wants to survive, its denizens will have to face up to the reality that its days of unquestioned hegemony are over, and it will have to agree to share power with Cubans who have other points of view, and to give them an equal opportunity to find solutions to the problems of Cuba that they have proved unable to address.
The United States, for its part, should make it abundantly clear that it stands ready to assist Cuba and its people, but that it is opposed to violence and bloodshed, both of the kind the Cuban government has used against its protesters and the kind some Cubans, mostly from the safe distance of Miami, are calling for against their government. For the first time in living memory, Cubans on and off the island need to find a spirit of democratic compromise to find a common way forward.

Is Cuba’s Communist Party Finally Losing Its Hold on the Country?
Historic protests across the island cast doubt on the regime’s staying power.

July 22, 2021
The New Yorker · by Condé Nast · July 22, 2021
On Sunday, July 11th, the world took note of a historic event in Cuba, as thousands of citizens took to the streets to protest against the government. Many shouted “Patria y Vida!”—Fatherland and Life—the title of a banned but extremely popular rap song that riffs on a slogan coined by the late Fidel Castro: “Fatherland or Death.” Many also shouted “Libertad!”—Freedom—and similar phrases that are not only heretical but, when shouted in protest, illegal in Cuba, where the Communist Party is the sole legal arbiter of political life.
The uprising began in San Antonio de los Baños, a sleepy town near Havana that had been hit by a recent string of long power cuts. But Cubans across the island have become frustrated by their government’s inability to provide them with even such basic amenities as food and medicine, amid a slow vaccine rollout and spiking COVID infection rates. The protests metastasized quickly, as the news and images of what was happening shot across Facebook, Twitter, and other messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp. Within hours, there were protests in as many as sixty towns and cities, from Havana to Santiago, at the southeastern end of the island, five hundred miles away. During the past decade, despite long-standing official restrictions on the media and most other sources of independent information, Cuba’s government has gradually allowed its citizens access to cell phones and the Internet, both of which are now in widespread use. Just as skeptical Party apparatchiks had feared, this technology is proving to be a threat to their order. As Abraham Jimenez Enoa, a young Cuban friend who reported on the protests, told me this week, “The only certainty right now is that the people of this country want a change, and the Internet is helping us fight for it.”
No sooner had the protests spread than an official crackdown also got under way. As black-uniformed special-forces units, police, and stick-wielding plainclothes agents were deployed, new images emerged showing policemen beating protesters and dragging them away. There was also some violence and vandalism carried out by demonstrators: shops were looted and a couple of police cars were overturned.
Just hours later, in a bid to show that the government had regained control, President Miguel Díaz-Canel was shown on television walking down a street in San Antonio de los Baños with a security entourage, and no demonstrators in sight. He later appeared on camera to denounce the protests as a counterrevolutionary measure organized and financed by the United States, and he called on “Cuba’s revolutionaries” to “combat” the miscreants. By nightfall on Sunday, a shocked silence had fallen over the island. Access to the Internet was restricted indefinitely. Even so, news trickled out over the next few days of deepening repression by security forces and of widespread detentions, reportedly including the jailing of several prominent dissidents and government critics.
As leaders around the world condemned the crackdown—President Biden called Cuba “a failed state”—Díaz-Canel seemed to reconsider his more bellicose rhetoric, and, on Wednesday, July 14th, he appeared on state-controlled television to express his hope that “hatred does not take possession of the Cuban soul, which is one of goodness, solidarity, dedication, affection and love.” Directing his comments to “the Cuban people,” he said he wanted to see them enjoying “social peace and tranquillity, showing respect and solidarity toward one another and other needy people of the world, and to save Cuba in order to continue growing, dreaming, and achieving the greatest possible prosperity.” He spoke at length, largely blaming the unrest on “an enormous media campaign against Cuba” and a “deliberate campaign of unconventional warfare” waged by the United States. As for the “adversities” that Cuba’s enemies had exploited to provoke the protests, he said, these were the fault of the long-standing U.S. trade embargo, “the blockade.” Nevertheless, for the first time in the sixty-two-year history of the revolution, the notion that the Communist Party enjoys the immutable support of the citizens had been shattered, and, more than any other time since the end of the Cold War, its ability to remain in control was thrown into doubt.
Joe Garcia, a Cuban American and a former Democratic congressman from Miami who was recently in Cuba and often serves as an informal intermediary between the U.S. and Cuban governments, said that Díaz-Canel, a protégé of Raul Castro, had stumbled in his first big test since becoming President, in 2018. (Earlier this year, he also became the head of the Communist Party.) “For the first time in six decades, the Cubans have seen a leader blink,” Garcia said. “This problem isn’t going away. They’ve got a health crisis and an economic crisis that their government has been unable to deal with, and telling the Cubans that it’s all the fault of the embargo is not something that’s going to fill their stomachs. Blaming the protests on the Americans, like he did, begs credibility. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the C.I.A. did it. That either means a massive intelligence failure on the part of Cuba’s intelligence services, which are supposed to be among the best in the world, or else the C.I.A. just got a lot better at what it does. Protests in sixty towns and cities across Cuba? Come on.”
The last time major protests broke out in Cuba was in August of 1994, and they occurred only in Havana. In that pre-Internet and pre-smartphone age, demonstrations were easier to contain—and Fidel Castro was alive and still very much in command of the nation he had ruled since seizing power, in 1959. It was the fourth year of the so-called Special Period, which Castro proclaimed after the Soviet Union’s collapse triggered a precipitous end to three decades of the generous subsidies that had kept his regime, and the economy, afloat. The U.S.S.R.’s demise was also a crisis for the global communist ideal, but, while most of the socialist regimes of the era also collapsed, or else quickly adapted to the new circumstances, Castro doubled down. Vowing to never give up on socialism, he said the Cubans would go it alone, if necessary, and survive.
They did survive, but by the summer of 1994, conditions had become harsh. Fuel, food, and medicine were scarce, electrical blackouts frequent, and feelings of despair widespread. Finally, in August, riots exploded along Havana’s Malecón, the seaside promenade that runs past the cramped and dilapidated neighborhoods of Centro and Old Havana, where ill feeling had been festering after several attempts by residents to flee the island by sea had been thwarted by authorities, and resulted in a number of violent deaths. When Castro was alerted to the commotion, he rushed to the Malecón, where a large mob of men and youths had assembled. They shouted anti-government slogans and picked up rocks and masonry from building sites, apparently preparing to go on a rampage. Upon sight of Castro, however, the rioters first fell silent and then began to cheer him, and soon order was restored. It was a remarkable moment, which has since found a prime place in fidelista mythology.
But it wasn’t only Castro’s presence that stunned the 1994 rioters into submission. Hundreds of rough-and-ready loyalists drawn from élite Communist Party worker’s battalions, wielding clubs and lengths of rebar, were trucked into nearby backstreets for the purpose of intimidating any protesters who did not stand down. I was living in Havana at the time, and that day I tried to approach the Malecón. As I did, plainclothes agents in the crowd around me stopped a car with an anti-Castro sign, dragged the driver out, and beat him before taking him away. People around me watched in silence and then moved away. Just then, the trucks full of workers came roaring past.
That night, Castro went on television and announced that any Cuban who wanted to leave the island by sea could so. For the next three weeks, some thirty-five thousand people built improvised boats and rafts and set sail for Key West and Miami. It was an embarrassing episode for Castro, but, as so many times before, he came out the ultimate winner, first by removing a good number of troublesome malcontents from the island, and then by forcing President Bill Clinton to deal with the crisis. Washington, fearful of another exodus like the 1980 Mariel boatlift, which had overwhelmed Miami with more than a hundred thousand Cubans, agreed to give residency to most of the balseros, as the rafters were called, and to double the number of legal Cuban émigrés it allowed in the country at the time, from ten thousand to twenty thousand yearly.
Díaz-Canel’s walk through San Antonio de los Baños on July 11th seemed a clear attempt to emulate Fidel’s iconic 1994 Malecón appearance, and his follow-up television appearance appeared similarly intended to project the power of command. But Díaz-Canel’s appearances only underscored the differences between him and Fidel Castro—and the changing times in which we live. Even if Castro’s offer to Cubans was brutal—“Leave, if you wish,” he said—it did provide a way out. Díaz-Canel, on the other hand, offered Cubans no solutions, only repression, followed by accusations of whose fault it all was: the Americans. “If Fidel had been alive, he’d have done that, and then fed them, too,” Garcia said. “But Díaz-Canel can’t.”
The paradox for Díaz-Canel, who is said by people who know him personally to want to be a reformer, is that he is boxed in by circumstances. Having been embarrassed by the Cuban uprising, he must show strength in order to preserve order. But to placate the public’s rising frustrations, he must also signal moderation, which he has belatedly tried to do; in a second address, on Wednesday, he acknowledged that his government bore responsibility for the issues that had sparked the protests, including both the shortages and the rising prices of food and medicine. But to call for dialogue, or else to “open up,” as many outsiders—the European Union and Pope Francis, among others—have urged him to do, could telegraph weakness to the boldest Cuban dissidents, and provoke new demonstrations. In any event, it seems a certainty that the unrest in Cuba has not ended.
So far, despite widespread expectation that the Biden Administration might engage in a renewed diplomatic opening, it has taken a tepid approach toward Cuba, even leaving in place many restrictions and punitive measures imposed during the Trump years; these include a last-minute listing of Cuba as a state sponsor of terror, which penalizes U.S. and foreign companies seeking to invest in the island, as well as restrictions on financial remittances and travel to the island by Americans. Earlier this year, Biden’s newly appointed national-security adviser for Western Hemisphere affairs, Juan S. Gonzalez, told me that Cuba was not a front-burner issue, given the President’s need to tackle other major crises at home and abroad. Officials have also alluded to the challenges of finding a consensus for possible gestures to Cuba on Capitol Hill, where the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, is a Democrat from New Jersey, but also a Cuban American, and closer to the Republicans than to the progressive wing of his own party when it comes to Cuba.
It is this political reality, along with the fallout that the Administration could incur from conservative Cuban Americans in Florida in next year’s congressional elections—and particularly in the Democrats’ bid to unseat Senator Marco Rubio—that has effectively kept the Administration from taking decisive action. Garcia told me that it was his understanding that the Administration had been planning some good-will gestures to Cuba, including opening up remittances again and easing travel restrictions, but, since the uprising, making any such blandishments looked difficult. “To do so now,” he said, could appear to Cuban Americans in Florida as “appeasement.”
To avoid a crisis of increasing proportions, both leaders must find a way to persuade their more intransigent allies that the best thing for Cuba, and for the United States, is renewed engagement, and also a credible and sustained opening within Cuba that can address the needs of its citizens and reduce the stresses that now threaten the island’s stability. If the Cuban Communist Party wants to survive, its denizens will have to face up to the reality that its days of unquestioned hegemony are over, and it will have to agree to share power with Cubans who have other points of view, and to give them an equal opportunity to find solutions to the problems of Cuba that they have proved unable to address.
The United States, for its part, should make it abundantly clear that it stands ready to assist Cuba and its people, but that it is opposed to violence and bloodshed, both of the kind the Cuban government has used against its protesters and the kind some Cubans, mostly from the safe distance of Miami, are calling for against their government. For the first time in living memory, Cubans on and off the island need to find a spirit of democratic compromise to find a common way forward.
New Yorker Favorites
The New Yorker · by Condé Nast · July 22, 2021

4. Chinese oil companies fill void in Iraq
So who is providing security for Chinese companies?

Excerpts:
Iraq exports more than 30% of its oil to China, and it is the third-largest exporter to China after Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Parliamentary Integrity Committee member Youssef al-Kalabi said during a session hosting the Minister of Oil that the Chinese ambassador in Baghdad is blatantly interfering in the work of the Ministry of Oil and in issues not related to diplomacy or the protection of his country’s citizens. He did not provide details on the alleged interference. Kalabi noted that the parliament asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop any interference by the Chinese ambassador in the work of the Ministry of Oil.
He claimed that a Chinese intelligence officer working in one of the oil fields who is suspected of corruption and is prohibited from entering Iraq was brought by the Chinese ambassador to Iraq.


Chinese oil companies fill void in Iraq
As major Western oil companies reconsider their positions in Iraq, China is seizing the opportunities offered by their departure.


Western oil companies have started to pull out of central and southern Iraq and are being replaced by Chinese companies following terrorist attacks against facilities and reports of extortion from tribes, militias and bureaucratic officials in state institutions.
Meanwhile, Iraq has halted its plans to increase investments in developing oil fields due to a lack of demand in global markets. This comes as Iraq and 22 other member states of the OPEC+ group agreed Sunday to increase oil production by 400,000 barrels per day beginning next month.
Major oil companies BP and LUKOIL are considering halting operations in Iraq, Minister of Oil Ihsan Abdul Jabbar told Iraq’s parliament on July 4. Other oil giants have already left, among them Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum and Shell, which retreated from Basra’s oil fields years ago.
Abdul Jabbar admitted on June 30 that the investment and security environment in the country has deteriorated, forcing global oil companies to reconsider their positions.
He claimed Chinese companies want to buy the shares of the companies seeking another market and that a Chinese subcontractor working in one of the Western oil fields makes more profit than Exxon Mobil did.
Since the Iraqi-Chinese agreement was signed under Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government in 2019, Western oil companies have faced repeated missile attacks, and in Nasiriyah, their headquarters have been besieged and shut down by nearby residents and new graduates seeking job opportunities. This opposition led to the halt of production in some oil fields.
Ihsan al-Attar, a Ministry of Oil official who is on the committee that regulates oil licensing, said the investment environment in southern and central Iraq is unsuitable and hostile to investors, and some local residents consider oil companies as 'colonialists,' touching a longtime nationalist nerve in Iraqi politics and society. He noted that foreign workers cannot safely walk the streets of cities without security, and their work and living locations must be protected by security companies.
As a result, he added, many foreign workers refuse to come to Iraq, and thus the Ministry of Oil must spend millions of dollars per month on additional costs such as high wages and transportation to attract workers, as well as contracts with security companies and life insurance, which Attar said amounts to $1 million per person spent by the ministry.
He said Western companies, such as Shell, Exxon Mobil and others, are currently leaving southern Iraq and being replaced by Chinese companies that have more relaxed standards than those of Western companies. He indicated that Iraq's environment has become hostile to American and European companies, which discourages companies from around the world from investing in the country and affects other economic sectors beyond oil.
Iraq exports more than 30% of its oil to China, and it is the third-largest exporter to China after Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Parliamentary Integrity Committee member Youssef al-Kalabi said during a session hosting the Minister of Oil that the Chinese ambassador in Baghdad is blatantly interfering in the work of the Ministry of Oil and in issues not related to diplomacy or the protection of his country’s citizens. He did not provide details on the alleged interference. Kalabi noted that the parliament asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop any interference by the Chinese ambassador in the work of the Ministry of Oil.
He claimed that a Chinese intelligence officer working in one of the oil fields who is suspected of corruption and is prohibited from entering Iraq was brought by the Chinese ambassador to Iraq.
Chinese companies are gaining ground in the energy sector, with Al-Faw refinery being awarded to a coalition of Chinese companies at a cost of $7 billion. The Chinese government will finance operations at the refinery. Chinese companies are also working as primary or subcontractors at 15 oil fields in southern Iraq. Iraq has 78 oil fields that China wants to develop.
Muhammad Rahim, a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, headed by the Iraqi Oil Minister, told Al-Monitor the companies’ withdrawal is due to several factors, including Iraq’s commitment to the parameters of the OPEC+ agreement, which include limiting production. The stipulations of OPEC+ make it difficult for the country to reach its target production goal of 8 million barrels a day in the coming years.
Rahim claimed that some Western companies have established companies in China and come to Iraq under the umbrella of these companies. Chinese workers were able to adapt easier to life in Iraq, Rahim said. He noted that bureaucracy and the weakness of the central government’s process to implement and award contracts for projects has greatly affected companies’ work, adding that the process of awarding a certain company a contract can take several years to be settled.
He noted that foreign companies face extortion from the state, militias and others, and that equipment imported and used in the oil fields remains held up in the ports for many months with militias that have influence in the ports requesting bribes to have it released.
The withdrawal of international oil companies and the purchase of their shares by the companies of the Ministry of Oil may lead to a decline in the country’s oil production, which amounts to 4.69 million barrels per day. The Ministry of Oil is unable to bring in new technology due to the financial crisis, and Chinese companies’ growing stakes in international companies could have repercussions amid their record of poor performance and objections to their work from the Ministry of Oil.


5. Opinion | Civilized nations’ efforts to deter Russia and China are starting to add up

Can there be sustained efforts by the community of democracies?

Excerpt:  
Henry Kissinger has said, not unreasonably, that we are in “the foothills” of a cold war with China. And Vladimir Putin, who nurses an unassuageable grudge about the way the Cold War ended, seems uninterested in Russia reconciling itself to a role as a normal nation without gratuitous resorts to mendacity. It is, therefore, well to notice how, day by day, in all of the globe’s time zones, civilized nations are, in word and deed, taking small but cumulatively consequential measures that serve deterrence.
Opinion | Civilized nations’ efforts to deter Russia and China are starting to add up
The Washington Post · by Opinion by George F. WillColumnist July 16, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EDT · July 16, 2021
The British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender recently broke away from the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group to conduct a Black Sea mission that triggered Russia’s reflexive dishonesty. This was one episode among several lately that demonstrate increasing resistance to Russian and Chinese assaults on a rules-based international order.
The Defender sailed close to the Crimean coast, through what Russia has claimed are its territorial waters since it seized Crimea from Ukraine seven years ago. The Defender’s mission in Ukrainian waters was to demonstrate that the legality of the seizure has never been recognized internationally. Russia responded by claiming to have fired shots at, and dropped fragmentation bombs near, the Defender, which Russia said then changed course. Although Russian planes flew low over the ship, no bombs were dropped, the only gunfire was from a previously scheduled Russian exercise nearby, and the Defender did not alter its course, according to the British Defense Ministry.
The British government says the Royal Navy strike group’s 26,000-mile cruise is “the UK’s most ambitious deployment for two decades.” The group, which includes a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Dutch frigate, conducted combat operations from the Queen Elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean, attacking forces of the Islamic State, as the Royal Air Force has been doing for seven years from Cyprus.
The Queen Elizabeth, one of only 18 large carriers worldwide, is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy. Before it left Britain in May, the government said the strike group would be “confident but not confrontational” in the South China Sea, where China illegally claims near-total sovereignty. Unfortunately, “nonconfrontational” means that the group will not sail through the Taiwan Strait. Beijing will surely interpret this avoidance as a flinch. Still, with the British Army now smaller than at any time in more than three centuries, the Royal Navy, Europe’s most formidable naval power, augments the complications confronting Chinese as well as Russian war planners.
The Financial Times recently reported U.S.-Japan joint military exercises — presented as disaster relief training — in the South China and East China seas, and “top-secret tabletop war games” in case of “a conflict with China over Taiwan.” Presumably someone thought the no-longer-quite-so-secret games should be publicized, perhaps for the edification of China. The westernmost island in the Japanese archipelago is 68 miles from Taiwan. The Senkaku islands in the East China sea are administered by Japan but claimed by China.
Heino Klinck, a Pentagon official who oversaw military relations with Japan and Taiwan late in the Trump administration, tells the Financial Times: “The Japanese government has increasingly recognized, and even acknowledges publicly, that the defense of Taiwan equates to the defense of Japan.” Evidence of this includes the Hudson Institute’s June 28 virtual event on “The Transformation of Japan’s Security Strategy,” at which Japan’s State Minister for Defense Yasuhide Nakayama described the Taiwan Strait as a “red line of the 21st century.”
He said, “We have to protect … Taiwan as a democratic country.” He called Taiwan more than a “friend,” a “brother,” and said, “We are family.” Emphasizing the increasing collaboration of China and Russia in military exercises near Japan, he stressed the importance of European militaries “exercising in Asia.”
Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso was recently quoted (in remarks at a political fundraiser) saying that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would threaten Japan’s “survival,” so “Japan and the U.S. must defend Taiwan together.” This, even though Japan officially adheres to the “one-China policy” — the increasingly threadbare fiction that Taiwan and People’s Republic of China are somehow part of a single polity.
The Wall Street Journal noted, “In the balance of power between the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China, the world’s third-largest economy, Japan, is critical.” And retired U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO, says that “over time” the U.S. policy is to confront China with a “global maritime coalition” that includes, in addition to Japan, “Australia, New Zealand, India, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.”
Henry Kissinger has said, not unreasonably, that we are in “the foothills” of a cold war with China. And Vladimir Putin, who nurses an unassuageable grudge about the way the Cold War ended, seems uninterested in Russia reconciling itself to a role as a normal nation without gratuitous resorts to mendacity. It is, therefore, well to notice how, day by day, in all of the globe’s time zones, civilized nations are, in word and deed, taking small but cumulatively consequential measures that serve deterrence.
Read more:
The Washington Post · by Opinion by George F. WillColumnist July 16, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EDT · July 16, 2021


6. It’s Time to Bring Back USIA

I look forward to Matt Armstrong's response to this. Hopefully he will post something on his Mountruner blog. He will likely take this essay to taks and provide us with a more thorough history lesson about USIA.

I would just say that what I have learned from Matt is that while we need and desire a national level information and influence capability, we will never have an effective one unless there is leadership and direction from the very top. Matt reminds me that the somewhat effective Active Measures Working Group was only possible because of President Raegan's desire for an organization to counter Russian active measures.

Excerpts:
A relaunched USIA would necessarily be different from the old one. The USAGM ought to remain intact and separate, retaining the various journalistic subsidiaries that were part of the old USIA. The new USIA would be smaller and more nimble than its predecessor. It would have more of a tech focus, too. In addition to countering foreign disinformation campaigns, the new USIA ought to focus on finding ways to bypass autocratic censorship and increase access to unrestricted internet and broadcast media—including finding ways to keep social media tools and communication apps available in repressed countries, so that political oppositions can use them to organize, and so that the people can find out what is going on in their countries.
The internet has made public diplomacy, information warfare, and counterpropaganda both more difficult and more needful. It is time to undo our mistake. It is time to bring back USIA.

It’s Time to Bring Back USIA - The Bulwark
thebulwark.com · by Shay Khatiri · July 21, 2021
In March 2000, President Bill Clinton suggested that the internet would help free China. Just five months earlier, the government’s public-diplomacy office, the U.S. Information Agency, had closed its doors—a post-Cold War money-saving measure. Both Clinton’s pronouncement and the shuttering of USIA were informed by a confident faith that free information results in free minds and free people. The internet’s unstoppable geysers of information, it was thought, would bust open any oppressive regime. In such a scenario, USIA must have seemed obsolete.
Two decades later, China has grown more autocratic, illiberalism is increasing, and much of the internet is fetid, malarial swampland that harms American democracy and creates opportunities for America’s adversaries.
It would be unfair to single out Clinton for his shortsightedness. In the 1990s and early 2000s, tech optimism—or, more accurately, a tech deterministic ideology—was the prevailing view. Only experience, ugly experience, could destroy the powerful consensus belief that the internet was simply a liberating force.

Podcast · July 20 2021
On today's podcast Huffington Post senior justice reporter Ryan Reilly joins Charlie Sykes to discuss the investigations...
In light of the challenges facing liberal democracy today, and the recognition that the internet is hardly a benign force for good, the question of whether to revive USIA pops up pretty regularly, with scholars and journalists variously calling for bringing back USIAnot bringing it back, or creating some updated new USIA-like entity.
To think more clearly about this question, let’s look back at the history of USIA. The agency was created in 1953 to counter Soviet propaganda by telling the truth about the world and representing a better picture of America and American principles. It absorbed several extant government programs, including Voice of America (launched during the Second World War) and Radio Europe (launched in 1950), as well as various activities that had been performed by other departments and agencies. New programs were begun under USIA’s auspices, including Radio Liberty (directed at the USSR, launched in 1953), Radio Martí (directed at Cuba, begun in 1983), and a number of cultural and educational exchanges.
USIA was a political punching bag, knocked about by Congress and presidential administrations alike. Following a 1978 reorganization, it operated for a few years under a different name before becoming USIA again. Finally, it was dismantled in 1999, with its non-broadcasting responsibilities largely handed off to the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and its broadcasting responsibilities to the new, independent Board of Broadcasting Governors (later renamed the U.S. Agency for Global Media, USAGM).
In one sense, the two decades since the closure of USIA have been a boon: Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the other USAGM subsidiaries have benefited immensely from their independence. The ability to say truthfully that they are not mouthpieces of the U.S. government makes them more appealing to foreign populations.
But at the same time, the arrangement has significantly weakened the U.S. government’s ability to communicate its message and its ideas. There is no longer a single government entity tasked with USIA’s multifarious responsibilities. The distinct but overlapping terms “public diplomacy,” “public information,” “information warfare,” and “counterpropaganda” describe the kinds of work USIA did. Because USIA was, in large part, a dedicated P.R. shop, it could get out America’s message in ways that straightforward journalists cannot. And it was often sophisticated and savvy in ways that the State Department and the CIA and other agencies don’t seem to be, in part because it had fewer restrictions in employing foreign nationals.
The protests in Cuba this month—the biggest uprising in the history of the island’s Communist regime—are a stirring reminder of why USIA should not have been eliminated. The protests owe a great debt to social media, a fairly recent arrival in Cuba due to internet censorship. In response to the demonstrations, the Cuban government shut down the internet altogether—a tactic they may have learned from the regime in Iran, which entirely shut down the internet in the country for ten days while it violently crushed a protest movement. (Netblocks, a business that monitors internet usage around the world, frequently reports on how autocracies become more restrictive amid protests or when implementing unpopular new policies.)
USAGM’s Radio Televisión Martí does important work from its headquarters in Miami, but the Cuban government jams both its satellite and over-the-air broadcasts. (During the current crisis, the Cuban government is even jamming ham radio.) Especially at a time of regime instability, as this month’s protests have created, the United States should find ways to ensure Martí’s programming, and for that matter other foreign broadcasts, can reach the intended audience.
The same applies beyond Cuba as well. The United States needs an information warfare strategy, one that counters foreign disinformation campaigns, explains the view from America to people around the world, and tells the truth. President Biden says he wants to rally the world’s democracies against autocracies. Uncensored internet and media are essential parts of this worthy and noble struggle.
A relaunched USIA would necessarily be different from the old one. The USAGM ought to remain intact and separate, retaining the various journalistic subsidiaries that were part of the old USIA. The new USIA would be smaller and more nimble than its predecessor. It would have more of a tech focus, too. In addition to countering foreign disinformation campaigns, the new USIA ought to focus on finding ways to bypass autocratic censorship and increase access to unrestricted internet and broadcast media—including finding ways to keep social media tools and communication apps available in repressed countries, so that political oppositions can use them to organize, and so that the people can find out what is going on in their countries.
The internet has made public diplomacy, information warfare, and counterpropaganda both more difficult and more needful. It is time to undo our mistake. It is time to bring back USIA.
thebulwark.com · by Shay Khatiri · July 21, 2021


7. Opinion | Russia and China are trying to control the Internet — even as they censor it

I like this thought the cyber domain (internet) is the high ground of the 21st century. But we should remember that the cyber domain is embedded in the human domain.

Excerpts:

The Internet is the high ground of the 21st century, in terms of economic, political and even military power. But however advanced the technology, the battle for control is trench warfare, fought in obscure meetings and forums and standard-setting bodies.
“We’re very, very actively engaged on this front,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me in an email in May.
The Russians and Chinese have now formed an alliance for control. It’s encouraging that after four years of deference under President Donald Trump, the United States and its allies in the world’s techno-democracies are fighting back.

Opinion | Russia and China are trying to control the Internet — even as they censor it
The Washington Post · by Opinion by David IgnatiusColumnist Today at 5:50 p.m. EDT · July 20, 2021
At the very moment that Russia and China are facing more pressure from Western governments to stop malicious cyberattacks, they’ve announced a pact to work together for new rules to control cyberspace.
In the annals of diplomatic hypocrisy, this new accord is a stunner, even by Russian and Chinese standards. It promotes a new Russian plan for international governance of the global Internet, even as it stresses the right of Russia, China and other authoritarian states “to regulate the national segment of the Internet” to edit and censor what their people can see.
The June 28 Russia-China accord was revealed in a little-noticed posting the next day by the Chinese embassy in Moscow, which was sent to me by a European Internet activist. It amounts to a manifesto for joint Internet control through capture of existing United Nations-sponsored organizations, such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU.)
“The parties emphasize the unity of positions on the management of the Internet,” says a translated version of the pact, explaining that “Russia and China note the need to strengthen the role of the International Telecommunication Union and the representation of the two countries in its governing bodies.”
This expansion to cyberspace of an existing treaty on “good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation” is a sign of what Biden administration officials tell me is a deepening strategic alignment between Moscow and Beijing. To formalize the agreement, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping held a joint teleconference last month, according to a story by the Russian news agency Novosti.
Russia’s alignment with China on cyber issues dampens whatever hope the Biden administration might have had that it could split the two countries. Such a wedge developed in the 1970s, because of Chinese resentment of diktats from the old Soviet Union. But the Novosti commentary noted that this old “ideological quarrel” has been replaced by “a new model of Russian-Chinese relations.”
The Moscow-Beijing Internet alliance should raise eyebrows because it comes at a time when U.S. intelligence agencies are discovering new evidence that Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies are either directing or condoning use of ransomware and other malicious cyberattacks against Western companies.
The latest revelation of such meddling was Monday’s disclosure by the Biden administration that China’s spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, “uses criminal contract hackers to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally,” including a hack of Microsoft’s Exchange suite used by “tens of thousands of systems around the world,” a senior administration official said. The official said these Chinese operations exceed even Russian “moonlighting” between its intelligence services and criminal hackers.
Even as Russian and Chinese intelligence operatives escalate their attacks on the West, the two governments are trying to claim the high road as Internet cops — and denouncing Western technology companies as dangerous monopolists. The Russians and Chinese are also working to topple the existing Internet governance structure, in which a non-profit group called ICANN coordinates the domain name system. The Russians and Chinese want to replace it with an ITU-run system that they can dominate.
The Russian-Chinese strategy for Internet control was outlined in unusual detail in a July 12 article by Russian official Olga Melnikova, a director of the Department of International Information Security of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry. It appeared in the Russian journal International Affairs.
“Currently, the Internet is virtually a monopoly controlled by the U.S. administration,” Melnikova argued, in an English translation of the article. She attacked ICANN, the panel of engineers and technologists established in 1998. Melnikova argued that ICANN “is accountable to the global multi-stakeholder community, that is, to no one, and is in fact still controlled by the U.S. administration.”
ICANN has disputed this claim, insisting that since it ended a contract with the Commerce Department in 2016, the organization has been entirely independent of any government.
Melnikova argued that to replace American control, “the best option would be to delegate Internet governance prerogatives to the ITU.” But she complained that by supporting its own candidate, ITU department director Doreen Bogdan-Martin, against a Russian nominee, “the Americans are striving to take control over the activities of the ITU.” Washington strives “to retain the possibility of technological dominance and a de facto monopoly in Internet governance,” she wrote.
The Internet is the high ground of the 21st century, in terms of economic, political and even military power. But however advanced the technology, the battle for control is trench warfare, fought in obscure meetings and forums and standard-setting bodies.
“We’re very, very actively engaged on this front,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me in an email in May.
The Russians and Chinese have now formed an alliance for control. It’s encouraging that after four years of deference under President Donald Trump, the United States and its allies in the world’s techno-democracies are fighting back.
Read more:
The Washington Post · by Opinion by David IgnatiusColumnist Today at 5:50 p.m. EDT · July 20, 2021


8. The Life Cycle Of A COVID-19 Vaccine Lie

Very simple analysis that shows how easy it is to spread disinformation.

Here then is the life cycle of a lie:

Step 1: Start with a kernel of truth

Step 2: Find an influencer to spread doubts and questions (Didn't we once call these people "useful idiots?")

Step 3: Pile on some related myths

Step 4: Make waves in mainstream media (More useful idiots in the mainstream media)

Step 5: Morph to fit the messenger

Step 6: Repeat the cycle with new lies


Conclusion: 

And that's the last lesson about the lies: They don't stick around. They grab the attention, raise questions and doubt, but there's no substance there. So once they've shocked those they're meant to engage, they disappear.

Or more properly, they're replaced by a new, incredible story.

Instead of the new, incredible story, what if we were able to replace it with credible information?  But unfortunately credible information is rarely sensational or clickbait worthy.



The Life Cycle Of A COVID-19 Vaccine Lie
NPR · by Geoff Brumfiel · July 20, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but misinformation keeps many people from taking the shot. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines can appear almost anywhere: from an uncle's Facebook post to a well-trusted news commentator. But where does it come from, and why do some myths spread further than others?
With the help of the internet research firm Graphika, NPR analyzed the rise of one persistent set of lies about COVID-19 vaccines: that they can affect female fertility.
Despite a mountain of scientific evidence showing the vaccines are safe and effective, the false information persists.
Graphika's data analysis tools allow the firm to track key points at which a piece of information is shared or amplified. It can illustrate how many of these kinds of lies often go viral.
The events outlined here represent a major amplification event for this false information, but they're by no means the only source of lies about female fertility and the vaccine. Claims about fertility and the coronavirus vaccines go back to at least December, and fertility claims about other vaccines date back even further, in some cases decades.
But the events of earlier this year illustrate how misinformation can spread in a nonlinear manner with many different players adding threads to a web of false content.

Here then is the life cycle of a lie:
Step 1: Start with a kernel of truth
After receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this spring, "a lot of women noted heavy menstrual periods," says Alice Lu-Culligan, an MD-Ph.D. candidate at Yale University who studies the immune system and reproductive health.
Lu-Culligan says that immune cells play an important role in menstruation, and so it is in fact possible that the vaccine could temporarily alter that process. "It's very plausible that you could have abnormalities to the typical menstrual cycle," she says.
Other scientists agree it's possible. One team of biological anthropologists is conducting a survey of experiences with menstruation and the vaccines, which has had over 120,000 responses so far, according to Kathryn Clancy, a researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The researchers learned many thousands of people who menstruate have unusually heavy flows after vaccination, and some older people also experienced breakthrough bleeding.
Unfortunately, definitively establishing a link has proved difficult, in large part because trials for the new vaccines never asked women about their periods. Because there is so much natural variation in women's periods month to month, a controlled clinical trial would be needed to try and establish whether it was happening. "When you don't collect these data during the clinical trial, you really lose an opportunity to study it in a controlled fashion," Lu-Culligan says.

The lost opportunity for scientists became an opening for anti-vaccine activists, says Melanie Smith, former director of analysis for Graphika. "In the more successful misinformation cases that we see, there is always that gap of knowledge," she says.
Step 2: Find an influencer to spread doubts and questions
With no firm data, stories about the disruption to menstrual cycles began popping up in forums and groups. Many were just wondering if it had happened to others and whether they should be worried. But there was one Facebook group in particular that turned out to be important.
"It's called, literally 'COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects,' " Smith says. There were a lot of posts by ordinary people there, looking for answers, but anti-vaccine activists were also part of the group.
One of the people reading this page was an anti-vaccine campaigner named Naomi Wolf. Formerly best known for her writing about feminism, Wolf has, over the years, drifted into anti-vaccine advocacy. "She is a very highly followed influencer in what we call the pseudo-medical community," Smith says.
Wolf is not a medical doctor, and yet on April 19, she tweeted out a link to the Facebook group along with this message: "Hundreds of women on this page say that they are having bleeding/clotting after vaccination, or that they bleed oddly AROUND vaccinated women. Unconfirmed, needs more investigation, but lots of reports."
Smith points out that Wolf is using an old trick: by saying something "needs more investigation," she's raising doubts, without presenting facts that can be refuted.

An anti-vaccine protester dressed up as President Biden holds a sign outside Houston Methodist Hospital in June. Myths about vaccines and fertility are often incorporated into global conspiracy theories. Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images
Step 3: Pile on some related myths
Wolf's tweet also seamlessly inserted a myth: that somehow vaccinated women could pass side effects on to the unvaccinated.
Lu-Culligan says that's absolutely not the case. She adds that this myth seems to echo another popular falsehood: that somehow women who live together can influence each other's cycles.
Wolf kept tweeting and piling on more misinformation in question form: Can vaccines cause infertility? Miscarriages?
This slam went well beyond disruption to menstrual cycles, raising the stakes dramatically. Lu-Culligan says the evidence overwhelmingly shows that the vaccines do not cause these problems. "At this point there have been many, many millions of women who have gotten the vaccine, and there have been no scientific reports of any infertility," she says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that the available data shows that vaccines are safe for those who are pregnant or nursing.
Step 4: Make waves in mainstream media
Days after Wolf started tweeting about vaccines and fertility, other influencers began picking it up, and a few clickbait websites wrote fake news stories.
But it was the real news that gave the lies their biggest boost. About a week after the initial tweets, a Miami private school, the Centner Academy, announced it would no longer allow vaccinated teachers into the classroom. It said there were too many questions about whether the vaccine could spread to unvaccinated mothers and children.
The school's CEO, Leila Centner, is an established anti-vaccine advocate, so her decision wasn't surprising. But the ban made national news anyway.
"To some people it's crazy and to others they question it because they want to know more, so for everyone there's a reason why you click on it," says Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. She says this perfectly illustrates how a lie that's grown big enough can use the mainstream media to get a further boost.
"By covering it, which is important for people to know what kind of stuff is going on out there, the other side of that is that the lie spreads faster, and more people see it and more people pick up on it," Sell says.
And that's what happened. The Miami school story led to global coverage. "This is the point at which we start to see Spanish and Portuguese content, specifically," says Smith, formerly of Graphika.
The lies piggybacked along with news of the school. Outlets in other languages began reporting that the vaccine can spread person to person, or cause fertility problems.
Step 5: Morph to fit the messenger
Finally, because misinformation about vaccines is not grounded in data, it can mutate to fit any political message or worldview.
Vaccine myths about fertility and reproduction are particularly potent because they affect a large swath of the population, particularly when they incorporate myths about vaccinated women spreading the side effects. "It's kind of a one-size-fits-all theory in some ways, and the potential impact is everyone, rather than one specific community," Smith says.
In the weeks following the initial wave of coverage, others were using these ideas to grab audiences. Conservative commentator Candace Owens brought the link between vaccines and menstruation up on Instagram. In a six-minute video questioning vaccine safety, Owens never directly repeated the lies about fertility but didn't refute them either.
Far-right commentator Alex Jones folded the vaccine lies into his conspiracy theories about Google and Facebook, which he claims are trying to depopulate the Earth. "It's not just that you're going to be sterile, you're not going to be able to have children," Jones said during a recent broadcast. "You're not going to be able to eat beef anymore."
Step 6: Repeat the cycle with new lies
By late June, the lies about fertility had spread everywhere from France to Brazil. But then, Smith says, they started fading away.
"It seems to have kind of fallen by the wayside in terms of the COVID-19 news cycle that happens in these spaces on the internet," she says.
And that's the last lesson about the lies: They don't stick around. They grab the attention, raise questions and doubt, but there's no substance there. So once they've shocked those they're meant to engage, they disappear.
Or more properly, they're replaced by a new, incredible story.
NPR · by Geoff Brumfiel · July 20, 2021

9. The U.S. Has Had 'Vaccine Passports' Before—And They Worked
There will be an irrational reaction to this by some.
The U.S. Has Had 'Vaccine Passports' Before—And They Worked
TIME · by letters@time.com
A southbound passenger train halted in southern Quebec near the Vermont border, where an elderly, bespectacled man boarded the train. This man, a physician named Dr. Hamilton, worked his way down the aisles, asking each passenger, “Been vaccinated?” Unless they had documentation proving that they had been, Hamilton asked them to display their arms, where he looked for a “fresh scar” indicating a recent inoculation. If he could find no scar, a local paper informed readers, he either vaccinated the passenger on the spot or asked them to leave the train before it entered the United States.
The year was 1885. U.S. border officials in the late 19th century did not expect travelers to carry the identification documents that international transit requires today—but they did often require passengers to provide evidence that they had been vaccinated from smallpox. Whether at ports of entry including New York’s Ellis Island and San Francisco’s Angel Island, or along the U.S. border with Canada or Mexico, officials expected border-crossers to prove their immunity. As an El Paso newspaper put it in 1910, travelers needed to show one of three things: “A vaccination certificate, a properly scarred arm, or a pitted face” indicating that they had survived smallpox.

Today, as Americans have begun to look ahead to life after the COVID-19 pandemic, some have argued that a printed or electronic certification of a person’s vaccination status, often referred to as a vaccine passport, would allow a safe return to communal life. A few major sports arenas have already announced that they will only allow fans to attend games with proof of vaccination. Many are also speculating that proof of vaccination will be necessary for international travel this summer. Detractors claim that requiring such documentation infringes on individual liberties. Some even suggest that these passports could be the beginning of a slippery slope toward “1940s Nazi Germany” or a surveillance state. Florida Governor Ron De Santis has announced a blanket ban on all vaccine passports, calling it “unacceptable for either the government or the private sector” to require vaccination in order for citizens to be “able to participate in normal society.”
But this would not be American history’s first example of a vaccine passport—and in fact, Americans’ long campaign against smallpox shows that the benefits of such a system can extend far beyond the venues into which such a passport would grant admission.
Introduced to the western world in the 18th century, the smallpox vaccine was the first of its kind. It was administered not with a syringe but by scratching pustular material on a person’s arm. Typically, the vaccinated area would form a blister, scab over, and leave behind a distinctive scar. Because of its unique appearance, Americans treated the smallpox scar as a documentation of vaccination, or a sort of early vaccine passport. Toward the end of the Civil War, a smallpox outbreak in Tennessee led Union Brigadier General Ralph Pomeroy Buckland to order that physicians inspect everyone in Memphis and vaccinate “all found without well marked scars.”
By the late 19th century, American public health professionals pushed for an even more aggressive approach to vaccination. During another smallpox outbreak in Tennessee, in 1882 to 1883, for example, a Memphis newspaper reported, “At Chattanooga, when a doctor and a policeman enter a house together the folks inside know that they have to show a scar, be vaccinated, or answer to the law. There is no nonsense in that way of stamping out disease and saving life.”
During a series of smallpox outbreaks across the United States from 1898 through 1903, many states authorized compulsory vaccination, while other leaders sought to use the power of public and private institutions to pressure reluctant Americans to accept the vaccine. A Chicago physician wrote in 1901 that “Vaccination should be the seal on the passport of entrance to the public schools, to the voters’ booth, to the box of the juryman, and to every position of duty, privilege, profit or honor in the gift of either the State or the Nation.”

Health officer Jones questions persons before permitting them to pass the quarantine barriers that have been placed at Barclay Street in Newark, N.J., in 1931 to check the spread of smallpox. All entering or leaving must show a vaccination not more than five days old.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Employers across the country acted to make smallpox immunity a condition of employment. Factories, mines, railroads and other industrial workplaces with tight quarters were particularly forceful in demanding proof of vaccination. In 1903, Maine’s government decreed that “no person be allowed to enter the employ of, or work in, a lumber camp who can not show a good vaccination scar. Though workers sometimes resisted, corporations and governments usually ensured that they took the vaccine in the end.
Social gatherings and clubs, too, sometimes required proof of vaccination in order to attend. When smallpox swept through Kansas City in 1921, one newspaper reported that “‘Show a scar’ has been officially adopted as the passwords to lodges and other meetings.” Public school leaders across the country also required students to present a “plain scar, the records of a school or a certificate by a reputable physician” in order to enter their institutions. Among others, the superintendent of the Savannah, Ga., school system in 1897 arranged for students to be provided with “admission cards” to their school once they provided proof of vaccination.
Some Americans resisted these public health measures. The predecessors of today’s anti-vaxxers questioned the vaccine’s effectiveness or falsely claimed that it caused smallpox or other side effects. One Illinois writer dramatically claimed in 1923 that “A scar from forced vaccination is a brand, a mark of medical tyranny and despotism.” Newspapers brimmed with rumors about young women who tried to avoid vaccination to avoid blemishing their arms with the ugly scar.
Much of the American public viewed this hesitancy as a relic of a bygone, unenlightened age. In 1893, a Raleigh newspaper carried an account of an elderly man recalling with undisguised scorn the anti-vaxxers of earlier decades who believed that childhood vaccines would lead young people to develop “bovine propensities.” Some, he remembered, regarded a vaccination scar as the “mark of the beast” referenced in the Bible’s Book of Revelations. (Today, misinformation concerning the new COVID-19 vaccines has led many Americans to the same sort of confusion that Americans felt concerning early smallpox vaccines. Indeed, U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene recently referred to proposed vaccine passports as “Biden’s mark of the beast.”)
And despite any backlash, stringent enforcement of smallpox vaccination requirements successfully pressured vaccine-hesitant populations to accept them. Though some groups continued to resist these public health campaigns, far more Americans acquiesced to vaccination rather than endanger their employment, mobility or their children’s education.
After decades of widespread vaccination, the United States effectively eradicated smallpox within its borders by the middle of the 20th century.
That the United States practiced aggressive, and even compulsory, vaccination campaigns at the turn of the 20th century may surprise Americans today. These actions were possible in part because they took place in an age of progressive experimentation in government policy—a time, as historian Michael Willrich notes in his book Pox, when Americans were beginning to conceive of liberty not only as freedom from government regulation, but also as freedom to meaningfully and actively participate in public life. Vaccination requirements involved some limitations on individual behavior, but they also made it easier for communities to forego complete quarantines and to thrive. They also set a precedent that schoolchildren still benefit from, as every American state now requires that most students be vaccinated against diseases such as measles, polio and pertussis. Americans today have inherited the widespread smallpox-era consensus that some “vaccine passports,” by another name, are necessary.
Unlike the smallpox vaccines of the past, COVID-19 vaccines leave no visible marks. In one sense, this is helpful as it prevents one strain of earlier vaccine hesitancy from returning. But the absence of scarring also renders vaccination invisible and uncertain, making it almost impossible for us to know who is immune and who remains vulnerable. Ensuring that a person’s vaccination status can be verifiable and visible through documentation would be an important tool for lifting quarantines and defeating COVID-19. Like the scars of the past, vaccine passports could help Americans to finally bring this pandemic to an end.

Historians’ perspectives on how the past informs the present
Jordan E. Taylor teaches history at Smith College
TIME · by letters@time.com


10. Manufactured Whistleblowing: Data Leaks as Subversion

Excerpts:
The NSB list scandal suggests that disinformation mitigation requires more combined efforts with data protection and cybersecurity. Some of the information in the scandal appears to have been stolen. However, neither the main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) nor the DPP has any incentives to acknowledge parts of the list were obtained by a cyber hack. For the KMT, to suggest a hack would mean publicly admitting it was using data stolen by CCP-aligned groups to discredit the Tsai government. For the DPP, acknowledging a hack would only reinforce the narrative that the NSB was indeed monitoring not only politicians and diplomats but also private citizens without their knowledge. However, the threat of politically motivated data theft in Taiwan has been growing for years. Taiwanese government agencies reported 1,709 cybersecurity incidents between 2018 and 2020. Moreover, suspected CCP-affiliated groups have frequently targeted government agencies. Investigators say that these groups have long since gained access to both agencies and third-party providers.
The NSB list scandal points to an added layer of disruption exacerbating subversive information operations in Taiwan. Malign actors can mix stolen data with misleading narratives to engineer the perception of political corruption and undermine a democratically elected government. While cybersecurity and open-source intelligence have matured in the past two decades, they are rarely addressed together. This is a gap that the CCP may be attempting to exploit in order to disrupt and undermine the democratically elected government of Taiwan. Disinformation analysts and researchers need to pay far more attention to the nexus between stolen data and malign information operations.
Manufactured Whistleblowing: Data Leaks as Subversion
By Libby Lange, Doowan Lee Friday, July 23, 2021, 8:01 AM
lawfareblog.com · July 23, 2021
Information operations have become a pernicious staple in interstate relations, especially between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Taiwan has long been a key battleground of disinformation and cyber operations in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) efforts to disrupt the organic political process across the strait. It appears manufactured whistleblowing is the latest technique employed against the more independently oriented Tsai administration. Whistleblowing, as defined by the National Whistleblower Center, is the act of “reporting waste, fraud, abuse, corruption or dangers to public health and safety to someone who is in the position to rectify the wrongdoing.” While the concept may carry a righteous notion of exposing political corruption, whistleblowing, when done in public view, can also be effectively weaponized to undermine the legitimacy of government agencies or elected officials.
First Attempt
On Oct. 17, 2020, a newly created account on a Hong Kong online discussion forum, claiming to be a former employee from the Taiwanese National Security Bureau, posted what appeared to be a list of people being monitored by the Taiwanese government.
This list included the names of politicians, diplomatic officers stationed in Taiwan, current and retired military officials, and journalists. Each entry in the list followed the same format: the office responsible for monitoring (either the National Security Bureau or the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau), the month and year when monitoring began (ranging from 2016 to 2020), the name of the person or organization being monitored, and their phone number. At first glance, it appeared to be an act of conscientious whistleblowing exposing an illegal government overreach into private data. However, certain aspects of the incident suggest that the whistleblowing may have been manufactured with the goal of amplifying a larger disinformation campaign designed to undermine public confidence in the Tsai government. The government and public responses to the incident exemplify the difficulty of responding to suspected information operations that touch on sensitive national security issues.
On Oct. 21, 2020, a group of Twitter accounts began to share the post using hashtags such as “abuse of power,” “National Security Bureau” and “Republic of China.” Top national security officials in Taiwan later confirmed that these accounts were fake. And several factors seem to support the government’s assessment. None of the accounts had profile photos, they did not follow any accounts nor have any followers, and all accounts posted only one tweet. Each of these tweets received hundreds of likes, but most had no retweets. Moreover, six of the accounts were created on the same date within a 10-minute span. At the time, this limited effort received little notice from the wider public.
If at First You Don’t Succeed ...
In February 2021, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau released a statement that media outlets had reported these fake posts to them, and that the media themselves had received letters from this anonymous “Taiwan Whistleblower” (台灣吹哨者) listing a total of 162 people and organizations allegedly being monitored. The NSB called the incident “a classic example of external forces conducting cognitive warfare against Taiwan through misinformation and disinformation.”
The reality, however, is not so black and white. In fact, plausibility is central to successful disinformation campaigns, partly because it makes them so much harder to refute. When asked to comment on the authenticity of the list by an opposition legislator, former NSB chief and current Minister of Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng stated that some contents were true and some were false. He declined to give further details. In response to a question about whether the government had ever ordered the phones of opposition party leaders in Taiwan be monitored, Premier Su Tseng-chang stated that he had never given such an order. He, too, declined to comment further.
In the wake of these responses, legislators from both sides of the aisle called for the government to release to the public more information about the authenticity of these reports.
The impact of this incident is difficult to measure, partly due to the prevalence of information sharing among private group chats in Taiwan. Media reporting in Taiwan focused largely on the NSB’s response, although some media commentators latched on to the existence of a whistleblower within the NSB. Only one editorial pointed out that this incident could be a window into deeper issues in Taiwan’s information space, although the authors remain noncommittal about whether the issue is government abuse of power or CCP infiltration into Taiwan’s national security networks. No observers have raised the possibility that the incident could be due to cyber vulnerabilities.
Responses from political parties have also been fairly muted, perhaps due to the government’s clear branding of the operation as cognitive warfare. However, at least one legislator has publicly questioned officials on the authenticity of the list’s contents. Officials’ failure to give conclusive answers could feed into the idea that at least some of the entries are genuine. One media outlet claimed that it was able to dial at least one of the numbers on the list, although no one answered. Thus, it is unclear how many, if any, of the numbers are real.
Connecting the Dots
There has not yet been any official confirmation about the source of this operation, but a number of clues point to China. First, the list was sent out to media outlets just days after President Tsai announced China-focused changes to her national security team, suggesting that the goal may have been to undermine the legitimacy of Taiwan’s national security apparatus at a time when it was not as well equipped to respond. The alleged whistleblower’s claim that the Taiwanese government was monitoring the phones of diplomats from the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand would also suggest that it came from a source across the strait seeking to sow distrust among some of Taiwan’s staunchest allies.
Contextual clues also suggest CCP involvement: The list posted in the Hong Kong forum contains dozens of entries spanning multiple years, but the earliest entry begins in June 2016, just one month after Tsai, a member of the less amenable Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), took office. Moreover, titles such as National Chengchi University were changed to Taiwan Chengchi University, a common practice in China. A number of entries on the leaked list included outdated titles and positions for Taiwanese opposition politicians. Furthermore, some of the titles were inaccurate as they were the official titles used only by the PRC government. There were also a number of incorrect characters that apparently resulted from the contents being put through a Simplified-Traditional Chinese converter.
Puma Shen, director of Doublethink Lab and frequent commentator on information operations in Taiwan, pointed out that officially directed operations would not contain so many linguistic errors, a nontrivial indication of inauthentic influence. He proposed two likely perpetrators: passionate young Chinese nationalists not employed by the state known as “little pinks” or, on a slightly more sophisticated level, an outsourced company. While the posting of the list was crude, the incident has received an unexpected boost in longevity due to yet another feature of Taiwan’s democracy: the rule of law. According to authorities, an investigation into the incident is currently underway. This means sensitive information cannot be released to the public, creating a communication gap that can be exploited to generate even more suspicion. Twitter also has yet to take action against the accounts that shared the original whistleblowing post.
Despite the initial sensationalism of the incident, the operation was haphazardly executed. It appears to be a persistent, if bumbling, attempt to sow discord both within Taiwan and among Taiwan’s allies. When one avenue—social media—failed to produce desired results, the perpetrators turned to traditional media, perhaps knowing that the presence of so many opposition political figures on the list would make it an attractive story to more partisan outlets.
This is not the first time “leaks” with suspicious origins have been used to undermine the Tsai government. In May 2020, the same month Tsai was inaugurated for a second term, files that appeared to be doctored Office of the President documents were released to the public. A lengthy investigation into allegations of hacking ensued, with the office later concluding that the documents were in fact forged, not stolen in a hack.
As of the time of this writing, it is impossible to know what portions of the list, whether phone numbers or actual records of government monitoring, were genuine. But generally speaking, this incident indicates something quite subversive: discord by exploiting democratic practices. In other words, manufactured whistleblowing with sensitive data can act as a particularly disruptive form of disinformation operation. These kinds of information operations are truly multifaceted. They may employ cyber hacking to steal personal data, use such data on social media to disseminate false information, and exploit the perception of whistleblowing to establish an illusion of corruption. The NSB monitoring list incident is a good example of how cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns unfold to create the illusion of whistleblowing designed to prop up friendly politicians and undermine organic political dynamics. This is another gap in the information environment that most democracies are ill prepared to cope with. Taiwan offers insightful lessons on the evolution of how disinformation is fused with cyberattacks.
The NSB list scandal suggests that disinformation mitigation requires more combined efforts with data protection and cybersecurity. Some of the information in the scandal appears to have been stolen. However, neither the main opposition party the Kuomintang (KMT) nor the DPP has any incentives to acknowledge parts of the list were obtained by a cyber hack. For the KMT, to suggest a hack would mean publicly admitting it was using data stolen by CCP-aligned groups to discredit the Tsai government. For the DPP, acknowledging a hack would only reinforce the narrative that the NSB was indeed monitoring not only politicians and diplomats but also private citizens without their knowledge. However, the threat of politically motivated data theft in Taiwan has been growing for years. Taiwanese government agencies reported 1,709 cybersecurity incidents between 2018 and 2020. Moreover, suspected CCP-affiliated groups have frequently targeted government agencies. Investigators say that these groups have long since gained access to both agencies and third-party providers.
The NSB list scandal points to an added layer of disruption exacerbating subversive information operations in Taiwan. Malign actors can mix stolen data with misleading narratives to engineer the perception of political corruption and undermine a democratically elected government. While cybersecurity and open-source intelligence have matured in the past two decades, they are rarely addressed together. This is a gap that the CCP may be attempting to exploit in order to disrupt and undermine the democratically elected government of Taiwan. Disinformation analysts and researchers need to pay far more attention to the nexus between stolen data and malign information operations.
lawfareblog.com · July 23, 2021

11. Military special operations facing 4% budget cut

Military special operations facing 4% budget cut
WASHINGTON — Even with the two-decade-old war winding down in Afghanistan, U.S. military special forces remain busy, with 4,000 special warfare operators currently deployed in 60 countries around the world.
U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking $12.6 billion in its fiscal year 2022 budget.
But some lawmakers worry that won't be enough.

"The FY '22 budget request for Special Operations Command didn't just fail to keep pace with inflation, but it cut the top line for the second year in a row," said Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Mississippi). "The FY '22 budget request represents a $495 million decrease from FY '21, a four percent cut."
Kelly wondered what the impact of that decrease could mean for the force.
"What are you not able to do because of these cuts and what are the associated risks?" he asked.
Gen. Richard Clarke, Commander U.S. Special Operations Command, said there wouldn't be many.
"For us, our operations remain steady," Clarke said. "So we can still maintain the operations required overseas and the readiness and training as was asked about, our training levels can maintain."
House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Chairman Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) wanted to know about the status of the Special Operations Command's diversity and inclusion plan. That's meant to promote more women and people of color into leadership and rank-and-file positions of the special forces, which, until now, have been composed primarily of white men.
"What does diversity, inclusion and equity mean to you?" he asked Clarke.
The General replied: "Congressman, diversity for US SO-Com is to make sure, first, we reflect the best talent and the best people of this country."
Overall, women make up 18% of the special warfare community in the Navy.
But just last week, for the first time, a female sailor successfully completed the grueling 37-week training course to become a Naval Special Warfare combatant-craft crewman.
According to Department of Defense statistics, in Naval Special Warfare 95% of officers are white and 84% of enlisted sailors are white.
For Army Special Forces, 87% of officers are white and 84% of enlisted soldiers are white.




12.  China Blasts NBC for Using ‘Incomplete’ Map on Olympic Broadcast

I am going to complain as well. The US map did not have uam, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, the US Virgin Islands, and even Alaska and Hawaii on the map. This is outrageous. (note my sarcasm).

China Blasts NBC for Using ‘Incomplete’ Map on Olympic Broadcast
Bloomberg News
July 24, 2021, 12:56 AM EDT

China lashed out at Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal for displaying an “incomplete” map of the country during its broadcast of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony when Chinese athletes appeared, saying the games shouldn’t be politicized.
“The map is an expression of the national territory, symbolizing national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a spokesperson for the Chinese consulate in New York said in a statement. “We urge the NBC to recognize the serious nature of this problem and take measures to correct the error.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how the map of China was represented by NBC, but multinationals operating there have previously found themselves apologizing for the usage of maps that sometimes don’t include Taiwan, Tibet or disputed islands in the South China Sea.
“Attempts to use the Olympic Games to play political ‘tricks’ and self-promotion to achieve ulterior motives will never succeed,” according to the statement.
Ties between China and the U.S. have been strained over a series of issues including Hong Kong, human rights in Xinjiang and renewed probes into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing on Friday said it’s sanctioning seven people and entities, including former U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in retaliation for a Biden administration warning to businesses about working in Hong Kong.
— With assistance by John Liu, and Fran Wang




13. SEALs have a new target: Congress


SEALs have a new target: Congress
Washington Examiner · July 23, 2021
Washington’s greatest hope for political bipartisanship and action may be in the hands of the nation’s most lethal outfit — U.S. Navy SEALs.
In a show of political force never before seen, five retired SEALs are running for House seats in 2022, hoping to join Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who is expected to win a third term.
“We all believe Congress is a place where you can make a sizable impact, and I think that’s why a lot of us are trying to get there,” said first-time Republican candidate Eli Crane of Arizona, a winner on the Shark Tank investor TV show.
“I personally believe that Americans, and that includes people on the Left, are really looking for a group that they understand that they can intuitively trust to do something better,” said Derrick Van Orden, who nearly won in 2000 and who is again challenging Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Ron Kind in 2022.
Long time fan. I'm honored to have his support.
Tonight @marklevinshow endorsed my candidacy for Congress in AZ-1. Listen to his endorsement here: https://t.co/OQ3AHWpJ2j

Thank you Mark, it's an honor. pic.twitter.com/OpRiSjtEF3
— Eli Crane (@EliCrane_CEO) July 21, 2021
The “old man” of the group, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Montana House member running to return to Congress, said that while they are all Republican Party faithful, the SEALs “caucus” could have an outsize impact on bridging the political gap in Washington.
“I’m gonna win,” said Zinke, already endorsed by former President Donald Trump. “But I guess I'm reluctant because I know what D.C. has become. It is fixable. If I didn't think it was fixable, I wouldn't do it. We got to learn to work together as a nation. I don't think the biggest threats are Russia, China, or even Iran. I think it’s the division within this country,” he said from Kalispell, Montana.
ICYMI: @markpocan endorses @derrickvanorden for congress!

Congressman Pocan says: “Derrick, I want you to be the GOP nominee. Make no mistake… he [Van Orden] is EXACTLY what he [Congressman Pocan] wants…” pic.twitter.com/xwy906942S
— Derrick Van Orden (@derrickvanorden) July 16, 2021
What all three said SEALs, plus Brady Duke running in Florida and Morgan Luttrell in Texas, offer are teamwork and a rich work ethic. “I think a lot of veterans don’t think through a red or blue lens. I think we mostly see things through a red, white, and blue lens,” said Zinke.
Crane, 41, already endorsed by conservative media mogul Mark Levin, began his campaign this week with a provocative video that said his 13 years of Navy service proved he had “skin in the game.”
I’m a former Navy SEAL and father of five. I’ve seen too many professional politicians compromise our nation’s future and security, and I’m ready to face these challenges to cut taxes, secure our border, defend life, and ensure the safety of our families.https://t.co/sfJ8Y42Cjf
— Brady Duke (@BradyDukeFL) May 26, 2021
In an interview, he said, “To be honest, I'm tired of seeing folks go to Washington, D.C., that are self-serving. They're not willing to sacrifice, they're not courageous, and I know that I'm a little bit different when it comes to that. And so, I'm willing to do it because I think that you can make a pretty big impact there, not only in how you vote, but when you're in that room encouraging others.”
Van Orden, 51 and a strong supporter of Trump, said that he is a conservative not willing to give ground on principles but ready to find common ground on issues, a stance not common in Washington.
Another fantastic meet & greet with a packed house last night. Thank you Robert & Janet Walker for opening your home & allowing me to share my message. I am grateful for the support of my friends & family in the community that I grew up in to go fight for our TX way of life in DC pic.twitter.com/bbX5cNJdKD
— Morgan Luttrell (@MLuttrellTX) July 1, 2021
“A lot of the things that Navy SEALs bring to the table that other people don't bring to the table is that you absolutely, 100%, unequivocally understand that we'll be focused on something, you can accomplish it, and that we won't be focused on ourselves,” he said.
Van Orden, who was one of the stars in the movie Act of Valor, added, “If the Left, or the Democrat Party, however you want to say, is really going to put the country before politics, I’ll work with them every single day.”
Deeply honored to have POTUS Trump's “complete & total endorsement” for Montana's new congressional seat. POTUS Trump & I fought liberal special interests to restore sanity to public land mgmt, rebuild public lands infrastructure, care for our forests, & make USA ENERGY DOMINANT! pic.twitter.com/xgIpgANauf
— Ryan Zinke (@RyanZinke) July 9, 2021
Florida candidate Duke agreed with the "team" theme. "The one thing I believe and I know is true about our community is that those of us who have fought alongside each other are brothers. We know that we have a goal in mind, and we're going to do everything as a team and as a unit to do that," he said.
Duke added, "I think that's something that needs to be restored in Congress today, and then our government. We have a keen ability to create teamwork in ways that will overcome obstacles that people would otherwise think can't be overcome."
Pollster John McLaughlin said that voters should embrace veterans and SEALs as candidates. “America has a long history of patriots who defend our freedom and democracy in war and then return home to run for office to defend the very same freedom and democracy from within the government,” he told Secrets.
“It’s little wonder that the heroes who sacrificed in our armed forces are once again leading the way to defend us and sacrifice in public service. It’s necessary for liberty to survive,” he added.
Washington Examiner · July 23, 2021

14. Proposed 'Hack-Back' Bill Tells DHS To Study Allowing Companies To Retaliate

Excerpts:

“The problem with hitting back is that [threat actors] almost certainly use stolen infrastructure,” Lin observed. “So what will happen is you’ll be destroying your grandmother’s computer in Kansas that has been taken over. It’s not clear to me that that’s the best way.”
James Lewis, a cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also sees risks in such a policy. “Putting aside the fact that [companies hacking back] can make mistakes, they may not be as careful about collateral damage or retribution. Those are serious problems,” Lewis observed.
Lewis also pointed to a broader issue: “Why don’t you see more privateers? The answer is because no privateer can stand up to a navy. And so no private hacker is going to be able to stand up to [the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service], or the [Chinese Ministry of State Security], or the [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard]. It would be a bold general counsel who would let his company attack one of those groups, because they will retaliate.”
“This isn’t badminton,” Lewis continued. “The IRG, probably one of the toughest groups in the world, and you want to play? You want to dance with them? Okay, have fun!”
Proposed 'Hack-Back' Bill Tells DHS To Study Allowing Companies To Retaliate - Breaking Defense
"So what will happen is you'll be destroying your grandmother's computer in Kansas that has been taken over," cyber policy expert Herb Lin said. "It's not clear to me that that's the best way."
breakingdefense.com · by Brad D. Williams · July 23, 2021
A new bill could be the first step in companies being able to “hack back” at bad actors – but doing so could come with major risks, experts say. (File)
WASHINGTON: Two members of the Senate Finance Committee have introduced a bipartisan bill that instructs the Department of Homeland Security to study the “potential consequences and benefits” of allowing private companies to hack back following cyberattacks.
Sens. Steve Daines, R- Mont., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., have introduced the legislation as frustration over repeated cyberattacks against US companies has led to growing calls across the national security community and the private sector for retaliatory actions. Some, including military legal advisors, are now calling for the US to revisit its policy on military offensive cyber operations, especially in response to increasing ransomware attacks targeting the public and private sectors.
The draft Study on Cyber-Attack Response Options Act tells DHS to study “amend[ing] section 1030 of title 18, United States Code (commonly known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act), to allow private entities to take proportional actions in response to an unlawful network breach, subject to oversight and regulation by a designated Federal agency.”
DHS’s report would provide recommendations to Congress on the “potential impact to national security and foreign affairs.” Specifically, the report would address the following issues:
  • Which federal agency or agencies would authorize “proportional actions by private entities;”
  • Level of certainty in attribution needed to authorize such acts;
  • Who would be allowed to conduct such operations and under what circumstances;
  • Which types of actions would be permissible; and
  • Required safeguards to be in place.
“The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack shows why we should explore a regulated process for companies to respond when they’re targets,” Whitehouse said in a statement to Breaking Defense. “This bill will help us determine whether that process could deter and respond to future attacks, and what guidelines American businesses should follow.” (A request for comment to Daines’s office was not returned by publication.)
The idea of allowing companies to retaliate in response to cyberattacks is not new. Former Rep. Tom Graves introduced a similar bill in 2017 that ultimately failed to gain steam. Also not new: the tricky issues that will surround hacking back, regardless of whether the retaliation comes from a government or private entity.
The issue is not technical capability. Many cybersecurity companies employ penetration testers, cyber experts highly skilled in offensive tactics, techniques, and procedures. These companies are often hired by businesses and governments to hack their networks, with advance permission and according to guidelines, in order to uncover vulnerabilities before the bad guys find them.
There is also a degree of legal precedent. US tech companies in the past have worked with CYBERCOM and the FBI to take down cybercriminal infrastructure.
Rather, some of the trickiest topics revolve around seemingly simple issues such as basic definitions.
“It’s all very fuzzy about what it means to hack back,” Herb Lin, an expert on cyber policy and strategy at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, told Breaking Defense in an interview. “I don’t know what it means to hack back. It’s emotionally satisfying, but you have to ask yourself: What is it that you’re trying to accomplish? And until someone can tell me what they’re trying to accomplish by it, it’s a bad idea, because it’s giving someone a gun and not knowing what they’re going to shoot and why, and if it will do anything to solve the problem.”
Additional ambiguities revolve around policy and legal issues, such as determining the level of confidence needed in attributing cyberattacks before authorizing retaliation and specifying “proportional actions.” These issues and others have bedeviled nation-states for years as international bodies have tried — and failed — to establish agreed-upon “cyber norms.”
“So you’re going to allow the general counsel of [some company] to be determining what’s proportional? Is that what [hack back] means? It’s unclear to me that I want some [company’s] general counsel to be determining what could be counted as a use of force under the UN Charter,” Lin said.
There are also issues around potential mistakes and blowback.
“The problem with hitting back is that [threat actors] almost certainly use stolen infrastructure,” Lin observed. “So what will happen is you’ll be destroying your grandmother’s computer in Kansas that has been taken over. It’s not clear to me that that’s the best way.”
James Lewis, a cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also sees risks in such a policy. “Putting aside the fact that [companies hacking back] can make mistakes, they may not be as careful about collateral damage or retribution. Those are serious problems,” Lewis observed.
Lewis also pointed to a broader issue: “Why don’t you see more privateers? The answer is because no privateer can stand up to a navy. And so no private hacker is going to be able to stand up to [the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service], or the [Chinese Ministry of State Security], or the [Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard]. It would be a bold general counsel who would let his company attack one of those groups, because they will retaliate.”
“This isn’t badminton,” Lewis continued. “The IRG, probably one of the toughest groups in the world, and you want to play? You want to dance with them? Okay, have fun!”
breakingdefense.com · by Brad D. Williams · July 23, 2021


15. Quad: Build Better Alliances

A view from India.

Quad: Build Better Alliances
Friday, 23 July 2021 | KUMARDEEP BANERJEE
dailypioneer.com · by The Pioneer · July 23, 2021
The Quad got off to a good start with Biden sponsoring the optimism for such an alliance
US secretary of State Anthony Blinkenmay shortly visit India. The move assumes significance in the face of the fast-changing world order, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on Quad and similar platforms among like-minded nations. The Chinese Communist Party celebrated its centenary on July 1, the occasion buoying the Dragon to actively look for new partnerships to counter the Quad alliance. Reports indicate China proposing a new Quad with Russia, Pakistan, and Iran. China enjoys deep ties with potential Quad partners. China and Russia have been strategic allies for a long time. Despite some suspicions and apprehensions, they havea healthy trade relationship and cooperate on fronts like technology, defence,and economy. China has always been a supporter of Iran which in turn has maintained a “One China outlook”. The bond is sealed, deepened by their shared resentment towards the US. China has recently promised $400 million to Iran while assuring to buy more oil and natural resources from the partner.
An all-weather ally of China in the entire equation is Pakistan.The latter fits in the geo-strategic chessboard, where its presence right next to India serves China’s unspoken wish to keep India busy in the neighborhood and have no significant say in world affairs. The US walking out of Afghanistan may see a more active Chinese presence in the neighborhood even as the clamor rises for a balancing force to bring Taliban and Kabul closer and keeping central Asia safe. That brings us to the original Quad, consisting of the US, India, Australia, and Japan. The multi-lateral alliance for economic and defence collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region also tries to contain growing Chinese dominance in the region. The Quad got off to a good start with President Joe Biden sponsoring the US optimism for such an alliance, set in motion by his predecessor. The first, virtual conference was held in March andthere is a possibility of a physical meeting in Washington towards September. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to travel to the US around that time for his first in-person meeting with Biden. China along with Russia has been actively pushing the vaccine diplomacy to reach out to its neighbors thereby increasing its influence and negotiating power. The world is staring at a fresh bunch of variants hitting its population which could potentially threaten partial closures across geographies besides restricting the free movement of people. The Quad leaders had agreed in March to work together on vaccine manufacturing as well as setting up a working group anda fundfor research on future pandemics. The four nations have significant grounds to cover on the vaccination front. Except for the US, none of the others have managed to vaccinate a large chunk of their populations and that continues to be azone of concern. If the QUAD partnership has to make any headway, then the US will have to persuade its pharma giants to come in and quickly ramp up the production of the vaccines. This will also help many smaller countries in India’s neighborhoodas the Quad commitment is also to have ahealthy and safe neighborhood besides trying to act as a bulwark against China. The other area of quick cooperation among Quad nations which the US secretary of State is likely to take up relates to technology cooperation and working together on emerging technologies in face of new threats in the cyberspace. The threat to technology architecture with the potential to bring nations and economies to a halt is a shared concern and these countries need to quickly put together an actionable roadmap for the future.
(The writer is a policy analyst. The views expressed are personal.)
dailypioneer.com · by The Pioneer · July 23, 2021
16. Warnings That Work: Combating Misinformation Without Deplatforming

Conclusion:

What platforms should pursue—and the Biden-Harris administration could constructively encourage—is an agenda of aggressive experimentalism to combat misinformation. Much like software vendors a decade ago, platforms should be rapidly trying out new approaches, publishing lessons learned, and collaborating closely with external researchers. Experimentation can also shed light on why certain warning designs work, informing free speech considerations. Misinformation is a public crisis that demands bold action and platform cooperation. In advancing the science of misinformation warnings, the government and platforms should see an opportunity for common ground.
Warnings That Work: Combating Misinformation Without Deplatforming
By Ben Kaiser, Jonathan Mayer, J. Nathan Matias Friday, July 23, 2021, 2:30 PM
lawfareblog.com · July 23, 2021
“They’re killing people.” President Biden lambasted Facebook last week for allowing vaccine misinformation to proliferate on its platform. Facebook issued a sharp rejoinder, highlighting the many steps it has taken to promote accurate public health information and expressing angst about government censorship.
Here’s the problem: Both are right. Five years after Russia’s election meddling, and more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation remains far too rampant on social media. But content removal and account deplatforming are blunt instruments fraught with free speech implications. Both President Biden and Facebook have taken steps to dial down the temperature since last week’s dustup, but the fundamental problem remains: How can platforms effectively combat misinformation with steps short of takedowns? As our forthcoming research demonstrates, providing warnings to users can make a big difference, but not all warnings are created equal.
The theory behind misinformation warnings is that if a social media platform provides an informative notice to a user, that user will then make more informed decisions about what information to read and believe. In the terminology of free speech law and policy, warnings could act as a form of counterspeech for misinformation. Facebook recognized as early as 2017 that warnings could alert users to untrustworthy content, provide relevant facts, and give context that helps users avoid being misinformed. Since then, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms have adopted warnings as a primary tool for responding to misinformation about COVID-19, elections, and other contested topics.
But as academic researchers who study online misinformation, we unfortunately see little evidence that these types of misinformation warnings are working. Study after study has shown minimal effects for common warning designs. In our own laboratory research, appearing at next month’s USENIX Security Symposium, we found that many study participants didn’t even notice typical warnings—and when they did, they ignored the notices. Platforms sometimes claim the warnings work, but the drips of data they’ve released are unconvincing.
The fundamental problem is that social media platforms rely predominantly on “contextual” warnings, which appear alongside content and provide additional information as context. This is the exact same approach that software vendors initially took 20 years ago with security warnings, and those early warning designs consistently failed to protect users from vulnerabilities, scams, and malware. Researchers eventually realized that not only did contextual warnings fail to keep users safe, but they also formed a barrage of confusing indicators and popups that users learned to ignore or dismiss. Software vendors responded by collaborating closely with academic researchers to refine warnings and converge on measures of success; a decade of effort culminated in modern warnings that are highly effective and protect millions of users from security threats every day.
Social media platforms could have taken a similar approach, with transparent and fast-paced research. If they had, perhaps we would now have effective warnings to curtail the spread of vaccine misinformation. Instead, with few exceptions, platforms have chosen incrementalism over innovation. The latest warnings from Facebook and Twitter, and previews of forthcoming warnings, are remarkably similar in design to warnings Facebook deployed and then discarded four years ago. Like most platform warnings, these designs feature small icons, congenial styling, and discreet placement below offending content.
When contextual security warnings flopped, especially in web browsers, designers looked for alternatives. The most important development has been a new format of warning that interrupts users’ actions and forces them to make a choice about whether to continue. These “interstitial” warnings are now the norm in web browsers and operating systems.
In our forthcoming publication—a collaboration with Jerry Wei, Eli Lucherini, and Kevin Lee—we aimed to understand how contextual and interstitial disinformation warnings affect user beliefs and information-seeking behavior. We adapted methods from security warnings research, designing two studies where participants completed fact-finding tasks and periodically encountered disinformation warnings. We placed warnings on search results, as opposed to social media posts, to provide participants with a concrete goal (finding information) and multiple pathways to achieve that goal (different search results). This let us measure behavioral effects with two metrics: clickthrough, the rate at which participants bypassed the warnings, and the number of alternative visits, where after seeing a warning, a participant checked at least one more source before submitting an answer.
In the first study, we found that laboratory participants rarely noticed contextual disinformation warnings in Google Search results, and even more rarely took the warnings into consideration. When searching for information, participants overwhelmingly clicked on sources despite contextual warnings, and they infrequently visited alternative sources. In post-task interviews, more than two-thirds of participants told us they didn’t even realize they had encountered a warning.
For our second study, we hypothesized that interstitial warnings could be more effective. We recruited hundreds of participants on Mechanical Turk for another round of fact-finding tasks, this time using a simulated search engine to control the search queries and results. Participants could find the facts by clicking on relevant-looking search results, but they would first be interrupted by an interstitial warning, forcing them to choose whether to continue or go back to the search results.
The results were stunning: Interstitial warnings dramatically changed what users chose to read. Users overwhelmingly noticed the warnings, considered the warnings, and then either declined to read the flagged content or sought out alternative information to verify it. Importantly, users also understood the interstitial warnings. When presented with an explanation in plain language, participants correctly described both why the warning appeared and what risk the warning was highlighting.
Platforms do seem to be—slowly—recognizing the promise of interstitial misinformation warnings. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have tested full-page interstitial warnings similar to the security warnings that inspired our work, and the platforms have also deployed other formats of interstitials. The “windowshade” warnings that Instagram pioneered are a particularly thoughtful design. Platforms are plainly searching for misinformation responses that are more effective than contextual warnings but also less problematic than permanent deplatforming. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s vaccine misinformation, for example, recently earned her a brief, 12-hour suspension from Twitter, restrictions on engagement with her tweets, and contextual warnings—an ensemble approach to content moderation.
But platforms remain extremely tentative with interstitial warnings. For the vast majority of mis- and disinformation that platforms identify, they still either apply tepid contextual warnings or resort to harsher moderation tools like deleting content or banning accounts.
Platforms may be concerned that interstitial warnings are too forceful, and that they go beyond counterspeech by nudging users to avoid misinformation. But the point is to have a spectrum of content moderation tools to respond to the spectrum of harmful content. Contextual warnings may be appropriate for lower-risk misinformation, and deplatforming may be the right move for serial disinformers. Interstitial warnings are a middle-ground option that deserve a place in the content moderation toolbox. Remember last year, when Twitter blocked a New York Post story from being shared because it appeared to be sourced from hacked materials? Amid cries of censorship, Twitter relented and simply labeled the content. An interstitial warning would have straddled that gulf, allowing the content on the platform while still making sure users knew the article was questionable.
What platforms should pursue—and the Biden-Harris administration could constructively encourage—is an agenda of aggressive experimentalism to combat misinformation. Much like software vendors a decade ago, platforms should be rapidly trying out new approaches, publishing lessons learned, and collaborating closely with external researchers. Experimentation can also shed light on why certain warning designs work, informing free speech considerations. Misinformation is a public crisis that demands bold action and platform cooperation. In advancing the science of misinformation warnings, the government and platforms should see an opportunity for common ground.
We thank Alan Rozenshtein, Ross Teixeira and Rushi Shah for valuable suggestions on this piece. All views are our own.
lawfareblog.com · July 23, 2021
17. A $500 Rip It? How grilled cheese and energy drinks fueled the Afghanistan withdrawal
You have to admire and appreciate the humor of the troops. It is a mental survival mechanism.

A $500 Rip It? How grilled cheese and energy drinks fueled the Afghanistan withdrawal
Stars and Stripes · by Chad Garland · July 24, 2021
Army Reserve Sgt. Nicole Hall, deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, with the Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), stirs chili at the North Dining Facility at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan during her 29-day assignment there which ended July 2, 2021, as the U.S. base closed. (Nicole Hall/U.S. Army Reserve)

In the waning days of the U.S. presence at Bagram Airfield, Marine Corps veteran Justin Modeste knew the can of energy drink he had was valuable and rare.
“Probably the remaining supply of red Rip-it in the country,” he wrote in a post shared to several Facebook groups where the base’s denizens bought, sold and traded various goods. “Act now to get your hands on the last few drops of this nectar from the gods. No lowball offers, I know what I got.”
The post included a photo of a short, opened 8-ounce can of the fruity energy drink that has fueled U.S. wartime operations since 2004 by the tens of millions and has become a staple for troops, veterans and contractors alike. His asking price: $500.
“It was indeed my last can of Rip It,” Modeste said in a phone interview in early July about the photo he’d jokingly posted weeks earlier. He’d planned to snap the photo before popping the can’s top and downing half of it, “but I couldn’t wait to dig in.”
Energy drinks and tobacco became hot commodities as base residents hunted for diminishing supplies in the hectic weeks before the U.S. left, seemingly overnight, in early July.
Many went from dining at bountiful cafeterias to subsisting on Meals, Ready to Eat, but Army culinary specialists were sent in to serve up hot food at least through June 25.
Master Sgt. Lloyd Cossey, Staff Sgt. Steve Augusten, Sgt. Nicole Hall and Spc. Patrick H. Watrous with the Army Reserve's Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) returned to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait recently, after providing support to service members at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield, as the U.S. base closed. (Jimmie Baker/U.S. Army)
Army Reserve Master Sgt. Lloyd Cossey, deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, with the Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), grills steaks at the North Dining Facility at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, during his 29-day assignment there that ended July 2, 2021, as the base closed. (Nicole Hall/U.S. Army Reserve)
The simple tastes of ‘Camp Cupcake’
A group of four Army cooks recently returned to Kuwait after spending several weeks running the North Dining Facility on Bagram. Other cafeterias had been closed and civilian contract workers sent home.
“We were feeding over 2,000 soldiers,” said Sgt. Nicole Hall of the Army Reserve’s 310th Sustainment Command, quoted in an Army statement this week.
On 12-hour shifts, they served up scrambled eggs, steak, vegetables and “everything you could possibly think of,” Master Sgt. Lloyd Cossey said.
Throughout much of the war, the cafeterias on forward operating bases Modeste called “Camp Cupcake” hosted steak and lobster dinners on Fridays. Modeste was partial to another delicacy Bagram’s DFACs served those nights: “the best mac and cheese known to man.”
Toward the end, the troops were happy just to have hot meals, Hall said. “Their favorite meal was the grilled cheese.”
Meanwhile, planes never stopped coming and going, said Staff Sgt. Steve Augusten, another cook. Bomb disposal crews were doing “constant controlled detonations, explosions all the time.”
With more than 95% of the withdrawal complete, the military has hauled out over 980 C-17 cargo plane loads of gear, U.S. Central Command said this week.
But as creature comforts became rare at the airbase that served as the U.S. logistical hub north of Kabul for nearly 20 years, contractors began to complain, said Modeste, who’d deployed to a similarly “cupcakey” base in Iraq on one of several overseas tours during his 8 1/2 years in the Marines.
He’d been conditioned for Bagram’s final, spartan days during an “eye-opening” deployment to Helmand province over a decade ago. His team lived on MREs and took solar showers during long stretches at an observation post atop an “unlivable mountain” in 2009 and 2010.
“It could be worse,” Modeste would remind himself this summer.
In this comment on a Facebook trading forum for residents of Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Friday, July 9, 2021, user Rob Fisher showed off the last two Rip Its he was able to get his hands on at the base in late 2020. They were a hot commodity during the U.S. drawdown, he told Stars and Stripes, and his are displayed on a shelf with other souvenirs from Afghanistan, where they will remain unopened. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
In a Facebook marketplace ad on the group ''Bagram Buy, Sell, Trade,'' Marine Corps veteran Justin Modeste jokingly offered to sell his last half can of red ''Power'' Rip It for $500 on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. It wasn't the last can on Bagram, Modeste told Stars and Stripes, but it was his last can before leaving as part of the U.S. withdrawal in the summer of 2021. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
An ad offering cigarettes on the Facebook group ''Bagram Buy, Sell, Trade'' on Monday, June 7, 2021, shows how tobacco became a hot commodity in the final weeks of U.S. precence at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, as exchanges and dining facilities shuttered and creature comforts became rare. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
A ''chick magnet'' bike with ape-hanger handlebars was among the random items being offered on the Facebook group ''Bagram Buy, Sell, Trade,'' in June 2021, as the U.S. was finishing up its withdrawal from Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan. Residents of the sprawling base used bikes to get around throughout the war. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)
The last ‘trickle’ of energy drinks
Into mid-June, Facebook groups like “Bagram Yard Sale” and “Bagram Craigslist” had ads offering random items like duct tape, power cables, foot lockers, TVs, tools, microwaves, gym equipment and personal Wi-Fi devices.
One user jokingly offered an MRE, labeled as a “stool hardener,” for $1,000. Another advertised a bike with ape-hanger handlebars, billing it a “chick magnet” likely to net marriage proposals.
“Make an offer,” the user wrote. “Free to an American soldier.”
As exchanges and dining facilities closed, things got dicey for those with energy drink and tobacco habits, some of whom turned to these groups offering to buy cases of Monster or Red Bull, packs of cigarettes and logs of dip. Others offered their dwindling supplies in trade.
Modeste’s “last can” ad came after years of being supplied “cases and cases” of the Rip Its that typically filled drink coolers at the dining facilities, he said. He’d first tasted the tantalizing beverage in Iraq, where he’d stuff his cargo pockets with it — his personal record was smuggling out 12 that way.
“That was my life force,” he said, adding that the habit “trickled into contractor life” when he arrived at Bagram in 2014 to support the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar systems.
Rip It was adopted as the energy drink of choice to be supplied at dining facilities in 2004 “because it was the most cost-effective,” Army spokesman Wayne Hall told Stars and Stripes in late 2018.
In the decade from 2009 to 2018, the Defense Logistics Agency shipped more than 175 million cans of it to U.S. Central Command — $165 million worth — data DLA provided to Stars and Stripes shows.
It’s also sold by the case or by the can in the coolers of higher-end Kabul grocery stores and the stalls of the bustling Bush Bazaar, likely pilfered from military supplies.
While it’s available in the U.S., often in discount retailers like dollar stores, Modeste says it’s not the same as the stuff shipped downrange.
Chad Garland
Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.
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Stars and Stripes · by Chad Garland · July 24, 2021




V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

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