Rolling Stone: LTC Holmes' battle with the US Army.

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Rolling Stone: LTC Holmes' battle with the US Army.

I’ll be honest, this whole story brings me more mirth that anything else.  In case you haven’t seen it, Rolling Stone did a big story on “Psy Ops” teams being used against visiting Congressional Delegations, and portrays Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes as the officer-in-charge cum whistle-blower that exposed this illegal venture:

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.


"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."

You should go read the whole thing, even though I found it ridiculous, it at least sets up the scenario here.  Apparently PsyOps teams are now practitioners of Jedi Mind Tricks, telling Senators “These aren’t the programs you wish to cut”…  The whole thing starts off in a problematic way, since as the Wall Street Journal would note:

An Army officer who accused a top general in Afghanistan of using “psychological operations” against visiting lawmakers in an article in Rolling Stone magazine was not trained in the military specialty, Defense Department officials said.


The U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command announced Friday that their special warfare center has no record of training Lt. Col. Michael Holmes in “psychological operations.”

OK, so the PsyOps Guru wasn’t PsyOps….any other problems?  Oh, just a few as my friend Bruce McQuain notes:

Hastings also implies that Holmes received an official reprimand for “bucking orders” associated with the claim he was to use “psy-ops” on Senators. In fact he was instead cited for numerous violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that included ignoring orders not to go off post in civilian clothes, surrendering his weapon to civilians in civilian restaurants, conflict of interest and telling falsehoods to superiors, among others. The reprimand Holmes received had little if anything to do with the reason implied by Hastings.

When asked by his immediate supervisor, a Colonel, whether LTC Holmes had permission to leave post in civilian clothes, Holmes told his boss that the former Chief of Staff of the US’s Afghan Training Mission had given he and MAJ Laural Levine permission to wear civilian clothes off post. However, when contacted by the officer who conducted the Command’s AR 15-6 investigation into the matter, the former Chief of Staff, in a sworn statement, denied ever giving anyone blanket permission to wear civilian clothes or dine off post. For one thing, he didn’t have the authority to do such a thing. The former Chief of Staff stated that any such permission would have to be given by a general officer as required by the two different command policies. In this case that permission would have had to come from LTG Caldwell. No such permission was ever given. By claiming that the Chief of Staff had given them permission when that wasn’t the case, Holmes and Levine were in violation of Article 107 of the UCMJ – making a false official statement.

 In fact, someone sent me the copy of the 15-6 investigation and it is interesting reading:


Holmes and Rolling Stone aren’t without their defenders.  Glenn Greenwald at Salon is perhaps the most vocal:

Now, the same type of smear campaign is being launched at Hastings as well as at his primary source, Lt. Col. Michael Holmes:   from military officials and their dutiful media-servants.  Ever since publication of this new article, military-subservient "reporters" have disseminated personal attacks on Hastings and his journalism as well as on Holmes and his claims, all while inexcusably granting anonymity to the military leaders launching those attacks and uncritically repeating them.  As usual, anyone who makes powerful government or military leaders look bad -- by reporting the truth -- becomes the target of character assassination and the weapon of choice are the loyal, vapid media stars who will uncritically repeat whatever powerful officials say all while shielding them from accountability through the use of anonymity.

Jonn Lilyea picked up on something else, and it is the same thing that initially pissed me off.  In an interview with Fox News, Holmes portrayed his actions as a defense of NCOs:

"Do I have an ax to grind? Yeah. But the ax is this. If they can do this to a lieutenant colonel, what are they doing to the sergeants out there? I have a lot of education and training. … I knew where to go and what the rules were and weren’t."

I was a sergeant, with arguably more education and training than LTC Holmes, so thanks for the not-so-subtle slight that we are all morons.  I think the big difference between my service over there and LTC Holmes’ would be that mine never reached the level of a 15-6, because, simply put, I never went off base to have dinner with a subordinate female.  In fact, the only time I really got close to a female over there in any extended conversational manner was with a young female LT at the hospital.  And every time I ate off post (twice, once I got dysentary) I did so wearing my full battle rattle. 

Jonn pretty much destroys Holmes:  (mild language warning)

Given that Holmes has been proven by an Army investigation to be a liar (Holmes told the investigator that had been given permission to wear civilian clothes and carry his personal weapon concealed outside of the wire – and the evidence of his duplicity has been posted on the internet by Holmes and Levine themselves) don’t you think the Hastings articles should be met with a measure of skepticism? What Greenwald and Hastings want you to do is read the articles without knowing where this bullshit is coming from. Like the IVAW gets bent out of shape when I investigate their individual backgrounds. We’re not supposed to ask where the information is coming from, or what might be the motivations of the messenger.

If the Army really went on a witch hunt to silence Holmes and Lavine, they might have included an investigation into the relationship between the two, but that investigation was specifically excluded from the 15-6. Personally, I’d have preferred that the command had given him an Article 15, that way we’d have been able to see if Holmes was prepared to take the charges to a court martial and risk a little “pound me in the ass prison”.


But you know what upsets me most about this whole story? It’s bullshit from the first word of Hastings’ article. Public Affairs and Information Operations are basically the same. There’s no difference except in which people are hearing the information product. If Brigadier General Caldwell was willing to tell visiting Congressmen and Senators bald-faced out-right lies, he could have had used either of those two offices to tell them with the same result.

The only way this is news is if Caldwell was planning on having Holmes waterboard visitors.

I tried to engage Mr. Holmes on his Facebook page, as he instructed people to do:

SyzygyLogos LLC, A Strategic Communications Firm If anyone feels the need to post anything on our wall - positive OR negative - feel free to come to my personal page and fire away.

Naturally, he deleted my comments and links, and then immediately removed me from his friends list. Gee, I wonder why that might be.  Hey man, I’m one of those sergeants you are so valiantly seeking to defend.

Maybe the Sith Lords got to him.


Grayhawk at Mudville Gazzette brings the funny:

I'm not sure who all has been completely and totally brain-controlled by bazillion dollar supersoldier psyops powers (like Blackfive and Andrew Exum and Jonn Lilyea and Bruce McQuain and Andrew Exum again and Small Wars Journal and everyone they link have), but obviously when America's most influential national security news sourcereveals a threat to democracy this shocking, President Obama has no choice but to do the same thing he had to do last time - immediately fire the two in that picture, at least.  

I mean fast - this story is totally super popular!
Posted in the burner | 5 comments
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From the article above: "Do I have an ax to grind? Yeah. But the ax is this. If they can do this to a lieutenant colonel, what are they doing to the sergeants out there? I have a lot of education and training. … I knew where to go and what the rules were and weren’t."

And yet, Lt Colonel you chose to disobey those very rules. Shame on you and your consort you failed yourself and dishonored your position of trust. Pehaps the Rolling Stone will offer you a position once you've left the military in disgrace. Iknow, I know, the military will probably just let you quietly retire but you've disgraced yourself none the less.

I find this amusing that the military thinks our Congress people are so stupid they can be manipulated! So far they have proven to be stupid but it is the almighty dollar that controls this congress. We wouldn't even be discussing this if they had been offered enough money and THEN our congresspeople would have jumped through hoops to do anything to keep the money! We have become an awful place controlled by ONLY money and no morals or scruples. Oh, and that goes for BOTH parties except for Berny Sanders.

Congressmen and women should be required to wear the same suits as NASCAR drivers wear so citizens would know who their corporate sponsors are. (Not mine but apt.)

This LTC has wasted our tax money. IO is not PR, period but if they felt he was useless maybe this was a way to give him a job. That was his only chance to do any work while pulling down O-5 pay, he is intellectually challenged. He had no business leaving the wire without proper gear, he's an idiot and it's embarassing to other officers. Best part is if IO or Psy Ops could truly control Congress, where are all our pay raises? If he was enlisted, big mouth would have been kicked out already but he milked the system and abused his rank, how childish.

Great post, i really enjoyed reading your article. Thank you for your time.
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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.