“Our military is built on a reputation of enduring core values that are at the heart of our character,” Major (then Brigadier) General Wayne Grigsby Jr., the former chief of AFRICOM’s subordinate command, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), wrote in an address to troops last year. “Part of belonging to this elite team is living by our core values and professionalism every day. Incorporating those values into everything we do is called our profession of arms.”
But legal documents, Pentagon reports, and criminal investigation files, many of them obtained by TomDispatch through dozens of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and never before revealed, demonstrate that AFRICOM personnel have all too regularly behaved in ways at odds with those “core values.” The squeaky clean image the command projects through news releases, official testimony before Congress, and mainstream media articles — often by cherry-picked journalists who are granted access to otherwise unavailable personnel and locales — doesn’t hold up to inspection.
“As a citizen and soldier, I appreciate how important it is to have an informed public that helps to provide accountable governance and is also important in the preservation of the trust between a military and a society and nation it serves,” AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez said at a press conference last year. Checking out these revelations of misdeeds with AFRICOM’S media office to determine just how representative they are, however, has proven impossible.
I made several hundred attempts to contact the command for comment and clarification while this article was being researched and written, but was consistently rebuffed. Dozens of phone calls to public affairs personnel went unanswered and scores of email requests were ignored. At one point, I called AFRICOM media chief Benjamin Benson 32 times on a single business day from a phone that identified me by name. It rang and rang. He never picked up. I then placed a call from a different number so my identity would not be apparent. He answered on the second ring. After I identified myself, he claimed the connection was bad and the line went dead. Follow-up calls from the second number followed the same pattern — a behavior repeated day after day for weeks on end.
This strategy, of course, mirrored the command’s consistent efforts to keep embarrassing incidents quiet, concealing many of them and acknowledging others only with the sparest of reports. The command, for example, issued a five-sentence press release regarding those deaths in Bamako. They provided neither the names of the Americans nor the identities of the “three civilians” who perished with them. They failed to mention that the men were with the Special Operations forces, noting only that the deceased were “U.S. military members.” For months after the crash, the Pentagon kept secret the name of Master Sergeant Trevor Bast, a communications technician with the Intelligence and Security Command (whose personnel often work closely with JSOC) — until the information was pried out by the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock.
Why the Name of This Blog?
The whole land is in desolation…there is mourning everywhere–all because the the Fisher King is wounded. (1)
Parsifal stumbles upon the Fisher King but stays quiet and misses his first opportunity. His mom or his mentor had told him: “don’t ask too many questions.”
After being raked over the coals by the “hideous damsel”, whacking his way through forests for forty years, and berated by the Hermit, Parsifal again finds the castle of the King. This time he’s got enough experience, courage and wisdom to ask a question: “Uncle, what ails Thee?” (2) In some versions, “Whom does the Grail serve?”
I can identify. I once served in a war that I didn’t believe in and did so because I was partially ignorant and also fearful of rejection by family and society.
1)Our land and rulers are wounded. Many activists are strong on this point.
2)Each of us carries the wound, too. Many spiritual and psychological folks are strong on this point.
3)It’s the approach of this weblog, following the guidance of Erich Fromm, R.D.Laing,M.L.King, Thich Nhat Hanh,Starhawk, David Edwards, and others, that “liberation”, whether individual or societal, needs work on both fronts.
Finally, not irrelevant, Parsifal, a Christian knight, has a Muslim brother, Feirefiz, whom he does not know.
(1)Johnson, Robert. He. Religious Publ. Co., 1974, p. 8.
(2)Campbell, Joseph. Creative Mythology. Viking Press, 1968, p. 561.