Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BLACK JUNE - South Africans helped cover the covert American Bug-out at Balad Airbase

I.S.I.S. Road Warriors - mobile column of ISIS fighters in opening phase of June 2014 campaign in Iraq
Iraq is an excessively militarized country, where virtually every adult male has
access to weaponry.  However the media may characterize the lightning advance of
I.S.I.S.  columns into Iraqi towns and cities, it was not a "cowardly" operation.


Initial ISIS  attacks on Balad  Airforce Base, June 2014  - situation map

On June 24th  the Iranian FARS News Agency, reported that the town of Balad, Iraq had been "recaptured" by Iraqi soldiers.  I take that factoid to mean the town had been swept of I.S.I.S. guerrillas by the Iraqi national army.  No mention was made of any recapturing of the American-built and-equipped fortress which was being prepped for the basing of Iraqi F16s and for the return of U.S. hunter-killer drone fleets. More important was the continued blackout of any news about what was going on inside Balad Airforce Base, which is larger than many American cities.  After the initial, and very brief U.S. media interest in the "besieged" American contractors at the heavily guarded super-base, and their extraction by Iraqi Airforce aircraft,  all went very silent at Balad.  The creepy silence was not due to the base being abandoned, (there are still plenty of Yanks there) but due to the imposition of enhanced secrecy, and the willing collusion of a tame media which is adjusting to the chilling new reality : any attempt to pry into the secret activities of the American Empire is to surrender yourself to lifetime of close surveillance, which is highly destructive of a career in journalism.   

C-RAM  Counter - Rocket, artillery, Missile - deployed to Joint Base Balad


During those few days in early June when U.S. civilian contractors were cowering in protected corners of "Joint Base Balad", waiting for the cavalry to arrive, various U.S. corporations (working under contract to the D.O.D.) issued statements assuring the worried families back home that extraction was imminent.  There was no Internet service available at Balad but a few employees, working for  Sallyport Global, Michael Baker International, Dyncorp, KS International or AMK9,  managed to get out cellphone calls, text messages and Skype video.  A few displayed bravado, claiming that the Iraqi base defence force had fled, but that Americans had picked up weapons and were defending themselves.  Given the immense size of the base it is doubtful that the civilian contractors knew that much about what was really going on around the perimeter, and for 24 hours were feeding off rumours. All U.S.-employed contractors were "herded" into a compact area adjacent to an aircraft ramp to await extraction The truth seems to be that a contingent of White South Africans, all of them dog handlers and all of them with police and military backgrounds, armed themselves and fell in with the base security forces.  The South Africans - to a man - have kept their mouths shut and will continue to be employed among alongside America's secret operators in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iraqi Air Force C-130 transport photographed departing Joint Base Balad

After a few hairy days, during which many in Washington held their breath, the American civilians at Balad were airlifted by Iraqi C130s.  (All the White House ever really cared about is that "American civilians" would not become hostages.)  Only one photograph of those evacuees was ever published and no reporters covered the flights or tried to interview the evacuated workers.  In fact hundreds of publications contented themselves with printing American disinformation rather than trying to establish what had really happened.  The single American evacuee who opened his mouth, Anthony Akers of San Antonio, (an ex-Marine with Iraq service) was immediately fired for violating corporate media gag-policy.  It was further alleged that by talking about what he had seen, heard and done at Balad Airbase, Akers "gave out operational security details" that put lives at risk.  This was literally true, because there was, and still is an American security detachment at Balad guarding very sensitive facilities, not least of which is a newly completed Secure Compartmented Information Facility.  Airlift flights by American C17s out of Tinker AFB were already underway into Balad Field more than a month before I.S.I.S. launched its blitzkrieg columns down Iraqi highways. As much as the story is spun that Balad is Iraq's largest airbase, once the U.S. made the decision to deliver F16s and Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, as well as piggy-backing a secret MQ-9 Reaper operations centre to that FMS and basing agreement,  "Joint Base Balad" effectively returned to full American control.

Evacuation by C130 of American civilians from BALAD (Iraq) AIRFORCE BASE - June 13, 2014
This is the only available photo of the Evacuation of American civilian workers
from BALAD AIRFORCE BASE. Taken on June 13, 2014 it was leaked by an employee 
of Sallyport Global.  Only two flights out - and 73 South African personnel were left behind.

On June 25th information attributed to "U.S. intelligence officers" made the situation at Balad Airbase even muddier, as it was intended.  The story written by Eli Lake and Josh Rogin at THE DAILY BEAST,  "ISIS TRIES TO GRAB ITS OWN AIR FORCE" made headlines around the world. More important, it ensured that any snoopy journalists who might have been thinking of hitching a ride into Balad would definitely stay away.  Remember this was only a day after the Iranian news agency declared the town of Balad "recaptured" by the American-backed Iraqi regime.

"In its march to Baghdad, ISIS seized the heavy weapons of a modern army. Now, the jihadists are attacking Iraq’s biggest air base – and could soon be able to attack from the sky."
 The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is threatening to take control of Balad Airbase, Iraq’s largest airfield and one of America’s most important military outposts during its occupation of the country.
Today, Balad still has plenty of vehicles and aircraft on the base that any terrorist group would covet, including Russian-made transport helicopters, surveillance planes, and a fleet of pickup trucks fitted with heavy machine guns. Now, that airbase is coming under fire—and is in danger of falling into the hands of ISIS, according to U.S. intelligence officers, internal reports from Balad, and outside analysts. Reuters reported Wednesday that the base was now surrounded on three sides by insurgents and taking heavy mortar fire."

Map showing extent of Iraqi territory overrun by ISIS fighters mid-June 2014
Typical map showing extent of I.S.I.S. successes during the initial
period of the June 2014 campaign.  (Internet scrape on June 17th)

What I have found of particular interest these past two weeks, are the many hundreds of maps and diagrams which have been created by the world news media to document the swathe of territory captured by I.S.I.S. (ISIL) forces. Almost never does Balad Airforce Base appear. How can that be, given its acknowledged strategic importance?  Well, largely it is due to the level of secrecy that the Americans have imposed on the facility and what their special operators are currently doing there.  If I.S.I.S. could have gotten through the gates, as was alleged in initial news stories, the Islamic black flag would already be flying on the roof of the Balad control tower. Should the White House  be unwise enough to choose to re-invade Iraq,(call it Option -X)  there would be no time available for a traditional build-up of forces outside of enemy borders.  Joint Base Balad is the largest secure facility in Iraq currently available to the Americans, and it would be the entry point for an assault armada in their president ordered one.  As such it will be held, unobserved by media, until such time as propping up the Iraqi government is no longer an option.   

Friday, June 13, 2014

BLACK JUNE - the former U.S.A.F. super-base at Balad, Iraq goes down

Iraqi Airforce -  F-16 Fighting Falcon shoulder patch
F-16 Fighting Falcon patch woven for the Iraqi officers
training with the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tuscon, Arizona.

BALAD - A massive airforce base that cost American taxpayers billions to construct and to maintain, has just fallen.

How did it come to this?  Less than two weeks ago the public relations folks at Lockheed Martin were blitzing the media with gorgeous photos of the F-16s in Iraqi Airforce colours, and crowing about their imminent delivery into the hands of Iraqi pilots.  Now the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is on the verge of collapse and the multi-billion dollar sale of warplanes is rendered meaningless. Certainly not 'too little', the Falcons are nevertheless 'too late'.  On Wednesday the U.S. State Department said the additional $838 million support program is on "indefinite hold"and that American contract workers were being evacuated from Iraq.  Just 48 hours later the situation is proving to be even more incredible.

First, some background. Until Lockheed sent out its press release with colour photos, most people were unaware of the fact that Iraqi airmen (most are high ranking officers) had been undergoing intensive training on F-16s with the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tuscon, Arizona. The average citizen simply does not follow the business of arms sales and base construction. The U.S. had competed with the Russians and Koreans  for Iraqi warplane business, which is intended to replace an entire airforce destroyed in war.  The Maliki government has ordered Russian helicopters and Korean ground-attack aircraft, but clearly the Americans got the juiciest contract. And what would be new home of the Iraqi Fighting Falcons?  It was to be Balad air base just north of Baghdad - the former U.S.A.F. super-base which was only relinquished to Iraqi national control in 2011, although secret U.S. drone operations continued from a dark corner of the sprawling facility.   The first two Iraqi F-16s were scheduled to arrive in September, with two-per-month delivery until the initial order of 18 was complete.  American contractors were already onsite at Balad prepping the base to become a Falcon roost,  ultimately to host 96 birds in hardened aircraft shelters. The bunkers which until recently protected American assets.   

Iraqi Airforce  F-16D Fighting Falcon - Lockheed Press handout
Iraqi Airforce F-16D goes vertical. Lockheed P.R. photo release.

Hundreds of thousands of United States service personnel know Joint Base Balad very well indeed.  When the U.S.A.F. decided to locate its Expeditionary Wing at Balad, billions of dollars were invested in a complete rebuild, and in fortification.  "JBB" occupies 25 square kilometers (nine square miles) and is ringed by a 20-kilometer security perimeter so well designed that press handouts described it as "a fortress". (see map) The perimeter is probably all that saved the contract work force this week, because many in the base security force bugged out.  Balad was the second largest American base in Iraq and it is still as well equipped as many bases in the continental U.S.A.  As of tonight it appears to be lost, and almost certainly we will soon see some cruise missile and drone strikes intended to demolish some of the more sensitive installations. 

Click on photo to enlarge

So who were those trapped at Balad airbase by  the advancing columns of militants known as I.S.I.S.  Islamic State in Iraq and the (Levant) Syria?   Contrary to the dis-information being willfully circulated by news outlets today, (the L.A. Times for example) most of them are employees of Contrack International Inc., a company headquartered in Maclean, Virginia and which is very tight with the U.S. military.  Contrack, one of several firms working under Michael Baker International,  was responsible for building many highly sensitive installations in Afghanistan and it dispatched very experienced personnel to Balad, because the basing of F-16s was a priority project. In spite of the $$billions already poured into Joint Base Balad, the latest upgrade required eleven additional buildings.  No doubt there were secret components to the contract, intelligence related,  as JBB was formerly launching area for strike drones targeting the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We know that a U.S. training detachment was at Balad as late as yesterday, instructing Iraqi personnel in drone operations.  Senior Project Manager for BALAD is David Rutherford, who is actually not an American. He is South African and still keeps a home in Durban. No doubt he is with those evacuees who are resting safe in Baghdad tonight.  It must have been a harrowing two days for him.

David Rutherford, Senior Project Mgr., F-16 Support Facilities, Balad, Iraq
A South African national,  David Rutherford is Senior Project Manager 
at BALAD, prepping it for the basing of the F-16D  Fighting Falcons.  

BALAD, Iraq - Iraqi  Airforce Base near Baghdad - June 2014
BALAD AIRBASE MAP -  On June 12, and under intermittent fire from Islamic militia,
Iraqi Airforce C-30s extracted two-thirds of the American contractors working at the base.
Click on photo to enlarge.


CNN Headline, June 12 -  "Terrorists Stealing Control of iraq"
No Wolf, not "stealing".  They are winning control of Iraq.

The black banner of I.S.I.S.  has been displayed this week at dozens of sites in Iraq.

It was only late today that the first details emerged of the rescue of civilian contractors trapped inside the superbase at Balad. The news agencies have alluded to trapped employees and the U.S. State Department had, on Wednesday admitted the problem, but details were lacking. Clearly the crushing news of whole Iraqi cities being captured left scant room for thought of other prizes, such as the vast bases paid for by the American taxpayer, and defended at great sacrifice by American servicemen.  The conduit for first hard news was a website called WND, which received information from Americans who were communicating via the Internet with friends trapped at Balad airbase. Such personal communication contradicted an A.P. report that hundreds had already been evacuated from the base. There is always the possibility that it was not error but military disinformation. The salient point was that American citizens were boldly accusing the Iraqi army of having fled the base, and worse, accused the U.S. Government of having "abandoned" hundreds of  citizens who were about to be over-run by the most ruthless jihadists on the planet.  This after a week of nauseating political theatre in which the United States President (POTUS) blathered on and on about "never leaving a man behind". 


According to further word, 300 contractors and U.S. government employees were finally airlifted out of Balad on Friday, not on Thursday. Given the enormous size of the base, which sprawls over more acres than many American cities,  it was a reasonable precaution to "herd" foreign personnel into protected zones close to a runway.  The base had been under siege by I.S.I.S. guerrillas since Wednesday,  and as the Iraqi army had abandoned much of the base defences the civilian foreigners had armed themselves and were defending themselves. The attackers, so far, have nothing heavier than A.A.A. mounted on vehicles and the ubiquitous R.P.G.s, but it is only a matter of time before captured Iraqi army weaponry is brought to bear.  A perimeter breach was anticipated.

On Twitter, a fellow named S. Danel, who self-idenifies 
"South African" claims airfield defenders were South African.

[Note - One unsigned message was posted on a CNN forum by a contract worker inside Balad. He said that civilian Americans had been "herded" into a secure area and left in the dark about their possible Evac. He made no claim of contractors defending themselves... so the truth of what went down is very murky indeed.]

The evacuees give full credit to the Iraqi Airforce which supplied C-130 transports to extract the workers. It is apparent that the U.S. employers, Contrack International and others, had attempted to lease civilian planes, but due to the fact that Balad was taking fire, and the U.S. government was refusing to intervene, the pilots reneged on the job. At last Iraqi military pilots came through. As darkness fell  a further 100 foreigners were still waiting for rescue, but one must assume they are out by now. Flight time from Balad to one of the Baghdad airports is only a few minutes.  The I.S.I.S. fighters must understand that after all Westerners have fled the base, it may be hit by American missiles when the Obama government OKs the strikes.  It would be pointless to linger inside Balad, beyond the time it takes to loot the base.

Confirmation earlier Friday night, that the last Americans,
and hopefully one South Africa, are out. Balad is abandoned.

Arnold Schwarzenegger appearing at Joint Base Balad in 2008
TRUE LIES. In better times Joint Base Balad was so safe
that even the Governor of California could safely pay a visit.

Louis C.K. performing at Joint Base Balad, December  2008
MASTURBATION. In better times even Louis C.K.'s 
"fat ass" was safe to perform at Joint Base Balad.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hitler's Armoured State Coach - Canada's Greatest War Trophy

Hitler Limo - Canadian War Museum

In the autumn of 1945 ships began arriving in Canada loaded with war booty from Europe. Our soldiers smuggled home the obvious souvenirs ... Schmeisser machine pistols and Lugers, but our technical intelligence personnel filled cargo holds with tanks, artillery pieces, radar systems, jet engines and even V2 rockets. We missed out on the really sexy stuff -  Hitler loot.  The Americans, the British and the Russian had over-run his command posts and private residences, and so Canadian troops were denied some some of the most coveted war trophies.   And yet in the end, thanks to a savvy collector with an eye for undervalued artifacts, our national collection now includes one of the most iconic artifacts of the Third Reich - one of the Reich Fuehrer's armoured limousines -  prominent in most of the news reels which documented Nazi state events.

The Canadian War Museum acquired a Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering "staff car" in 1969 in exchange for a federal gift tax receipt. (All Canadian museum's may use tax receipts to acquire art and artifacts.)  Though thrilled to have the car, from the beginning the Museum harboured doubt that the Mercedes had been used by Goering. The provenance had been established by the U.S. Army at the time it was landed at the Port of Boston and introduced to the American news media.  That was how the C.W.M. displayed it, and from year of acquisition it became the favourite of museum visitors. 

Armoured limousine frequently used by Adolph Hitler, seized by U.S. Forces in 1945
A Mercedes 'Staatskarosse' or State Coach built by Daimler-Benz for Adolph Hitler.
This example was captured by men of the 20th Armoured Division on May 4, 1945.
Used briefly as transport by an American general, the car had its engine replaced
but arrived in the U.S. relatively intact. Arrows indicate bullet damaged glass and a
white star painted atop the convertible roof that helped authenticate the war trophy.

Closeup - shattered glass on Hitler's Mercedes limousine - Boston Harbour 1945
One of the myths perpetuated  for decades was that the armoured glass on the car
was damaged by testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Photo's taken at Boston in
August 1945 documented the fact that damage occurred prior to leaving Germany.

Several armoured limousines and staff cars, vehicles issued by the state to Adolph Hitler and Hermann Goering, were captured by men of the 20th Armoured Division and the 101st Airborne Division in early 1945.  Most young American males were, and are "car crazy," so it was quite natural that they would seize prestige automobiles wherever found. The "Goering car" was found loaded on a rail flatcar and before abandonment someone put a burst or two into it, ruining the armoured glass on the front passenger side and leaving bullets embedded here and there. From the beginning this car, a model known as a Grosser Mercedes  770 W  150, was mis-attributed to Goering,  senior military leader and second in state authority.  Moreover, as Hitler was dead and burned, while Goering had been captured, the latter was frequently in the news and his personal property was equally newsworthy.  When it off-loaded in Boston a local paper, THE DAILY GLOBE, ran the crude headline "Goering's Auto Bullet Proof to protect Fat Marshal's Hide".   Such digs were very common in 1945, but to be fair, had the table been turned and the Wehrmacht overrun Washington,  German headlines might have read "Roosevelt's Limo   armoured to protect his crippled ass".  Hate cuts both ways.

Two Nazi vehicles were used to sell U.S. War Bonds in 1945, but in the rush
to parade the trophies across America, one car was attributed to the wrong
German leader... and as a result in 1956 a Canadian collector ultimately scooped 
up one of Adolph Hitler's armoured state coaches for less than $6,000.  

"Goering's car" was given the royal treatment, including another coat of paint, and the men who captured it were rewarded with some plum duty.  They were assigned to accompany two "bullet proof" Nazi  (several had been captured including everything in the garages under Hitler's mountain retreat) on a cross country blitz to sell U.S. War Bonds.  The following year "Goering's car" was used in a recruiting campaign and then suddenly the U.S. Army had no further use for it. The Mercedes fell into the custody of the Property Disposal Office which put it into storage for nearly ten years. In 1956 a Montreal car collector saw a notice that the vehicle was up for public auction and he acquired it for $2,725. Fortunately his $5,000 of restoration efforts were careful to maintain the integrity of the artifact. For example he opted to leave the shattered glass in place and the car's odometer was left pegged  where it jammed in May of 1945.

In 1974, during  the commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of D-Day, the C.W.M.  put two of Hitler's paintings on display, but nothing fired the imagination of the public like "the Goering staff car" which the museum did not even believe had belonged to Hermann Goering. Also that year the museum provided pictures and text for an article in the British magazine AFTER THE BATTLE.  Entitled "Hermann Goering's Mercedes Benz" the piece repeated several of the myths and errors which museum staff had never even believed. Still, serious investigation of the artifact was put off by one excuse after another but finally in 1980 staff got serious, and the first thing they did was remove the paint which had obscured the original registration plate, which bore a number issued to Berlin, and it was not a military registration.  It could not have been issued to the Luftwaffe.  

Ludwig Kosche was the librarian at the Canadian War Museum and he also had an M.A. in History. He was also German and certainly the man to finally solve the mystery.  The car had been delivered to the Reich Chancellory in 1940 and it was for Hitler's use.  Kosche accomplished in a few short months what the curators and staff historians had failed to do in the preceding decade, and in so doing he transformed a popular exhibit into the Museum's most popular display item. While we Canadian's honour our heroes, the truth is that  a medal group issued to a Victoria Cross recipient can never attract as much attention as one of the sleek "chariots" Hitler often stood erect in as he passed before his people or his troops.

Hitler's Armoured Car - booklet distributed at War Bond rallies, 1948

AFTER THE BATTLE is one of my favourite history magazines and clearly it is well regarded by the staff of our national war museum.  No sooner had Ludwig Kosche completed his research than he submitted a highly detailed article which completely recants all that had been provided by a C.W.M. staffer in 1974.   True, there were a few outstanding mysteries, such as the current whereabouts of two other armoured limousines which were imported into the U.S. in 1945, but the file on the museum's acquisition was finally complete.

The Story of a Car - by Ludwig Kosche, AFTER THE BATTLE No. 35, 1982
The research article written by Ludwig Kosche, and published in 
AFTER THE BATTLE  No. 35, 1982 provided conclusive evidence linking
the armoured Mercedes limo to the Reich Chancellory and Adolph Hitler.

The armoured "Grosser" Mercedes-Benz limousine was just one of eight delivered for Adolph Hitler's personal use, but it witnessed some incredibly significant events, all itemized in the Kosche article.  It is undeniably Canada's greatest war trophy, and this opinion has been tested in the court of public opinion. When historian Jack Granatstein  was named Director General of the Museum in 1998 he was interviewed by CBC Television. When the interviewer, an Ottawa local, was queried about his own knowledge of the C.W.M. he admitted the Hitler car was the only artifact he could remember.

Jack Granatstein was still a York University lecturer, when in 1994 he was asked to appear on CBC Television coverage of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.  He was also chosen for VE Day special coverage in 1995.  From that point on he cultivated a media persona and was seen regularly on national broadcasts. He re-appeared on CBC not only for the 60th and 65th veterans anniversaries  but became a daily fixture on television screens during the unprecedented and exhausting Somalia Inquiry  and throughout the period of Canada's involvement in the Iraq War.

Two years after taking the helm at the War Museum, Granatstein floated the idea of the C.W.M. selling the Hitler vehicle and using the proceeds to build a new museum facility. He "guessed" the car might fetch $20 million at auction. According to a report in the OTTAWA CITIZEN the Director's intentions were noble. "Adolph Hitler's bulletproof Mercedes limousine should be removed from Canada's War Museum because it glorifies the evils of Nazism and sends the wrong message to visitors, says the museum's chief." (Feb. 2, 2000) Granatstein had a further worry, which was described as "a horrible dilemma".  "If we put it up at auction, we can't control who buys it. This car would be such a powerful icon for a neo-Nazi or extreme group. If it fell into the wrong hands, we would feel very foolish, and worse. The possible consequences are frightening."

In the end the C.W.M. got to keep all of Hitler's mojo for itself. The neo-Nazis, if they existed, never ever had a chance of offering their $$millions for the Mercedes, because a vocal Canadian public wanted to keep our prize war trophy.  The outcry was so intense  that only one week later Granatstein was forced to backtrack because, it was reported, "selling the car would fly in the face of public opinion".   The CBC News report further stated - "The car has been the most popular exhibit at the museum for 30 years."