Episode 106 - Ministering to Migrants and Risking It All in the Jungle
3000 migrants are stuck in the Darien Jungle of Panama, and more are arriving every day. For the indigenous tribes who live in the area, the tidal wave of humanity is changing their way of life. This episode features a full conversation with Alan Foster, a missionary in Yaviza, Darien. He tells us how the locals are coping with a flood of migrants who are eating their food, using their water and heading for the United States.
Episode 105 - Tortured for Christ with Majed Al Shafie
Today's Hot Zone features an interview with Majed al Shafie, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity - and paid a steep price for doing so. Don't miss his amazing story!
check out https://ofwi.org/
Episode 104 - 3000 migrants too many and a Baby named Darien!
On today's podcast, we'll visit a remote refugee camp in the Darien region of Panama - where thousands of migrants are languishing after a grueling trek through the jungle. And we'll meet a baby who was born there in third-world conditions!
Operation Libertad - the biggest push yet to unseat Nicolas Maduro is underway in Venezuela - and I JUST LEFT the border region once again! In this special episode we'll check back in on some of the people we've helped in previous episodes, and find more needy people! Don't miss it!
Thousands of people every month are now entering Panama illegally on their way to the United States. They come from all over the world - this episode gives you a sense of what it's like to walk through the Darien.
Episode 101 - Migrants From 40 Countries Rushing to Get to the US
Traveling to the Darien Gap in Panama to report on the increasing flow of foreigners from around the world who are walking through the forbidding jungle to get to the United States. Panama is struggling to care for the waves of people arriving at their southern border.
The future of war fighting and an unmanned arms race. All that's coming up on today's awesome episode of the Hot Zone
Hi folks chuck Holton here. Today we're going to do something a little bit different for the podcast, I want to talk specifically about the future of war fighting. That is what will our next major war look like? We are probably all familiar with the advances that have been seen in the civilian market with unmanned technology and drones and the like, but how is That being applied to the US military?
Well today were going to take a look at some of the advances that the military is making in that area and we're going to hear from some of the soldiers sailors and Marines who are Using this new technology. Some of it is pretty exciting and some of it's a little bit scary.
First I want to show you a testing Facility Being used by the US Marines to try out some of these new technologies checked this out
Well that's pretty interesting Having Lost I think 2 inches of height myself During my time in the military because I was always carrying a heavy rucksack around, the idea of having an autonomous machine that will follow you around and carry all your stuff is pretty awesome. having another robot that will allow you to see around corners is great and An armed robot that will bring massive firepower to the foot Patrol squad level is hard to even imagine. I just hope the artificial intelligence on those things is good enough to tell friend from foe.
And that's what this next package is about, How The Military is bringing together some of its best experts to Move this industry forward In a way that will Allow Unmanned Vehicles To Actually help Our warriors accomplish their mission without putting them in more danger.
Finally want to show youSomething really cool. The army is actually now starting to take deliveryOf a new kind ofHeavy equipment transport that willDramatically reduceThe danger to our troopsOn the ground. You might remember that a couple weeks agoWe have three Marines killed in Afghanistan as they went out on patrolThey were in a heavily armoredVehicle but the bomb they had was so large it blew the entire front of the vehicle off. If you look back at the Iraq warOne of most dangerous things you could do was drive a truck between Kuwait City and BaghdadIt's hard to imagine how many troops were killed remained on those convoys butWithout a doubtIt was far too manyLogistics trains like that are typicallyOne of the more dangerous things you can do in battle because they typically don't have a lot ofFirepowerAnd they have to stick to the roadsWhich are predictable routes and anytime you're predictable in wore your risk goes up. Well in this caseThe army is now taking delivery of up to 20Self driving supply trucks in the next yearThey're called expedient leader follower trucksBecauseThere will still be drivers in the front vehicle but they can now attach up to nineAutonomous vehicles behind itThat will follow automatically where the first truck goesI think this is a really exciting technologyIn the armyDecided to name each one of the trucks after somebody who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The military is now using autonomous vehicles And get what I'm saying here they are not remotely piloted they are completely autonomous And they are using them for everything from surveillance to LogisticsTo casualty evacuation And much more. I think we're going to see more and more of this Without a doubt over the next 5 to 10 years.And this will dramatically change the face of war. One real concerning point is that we are not the only ones who are Developing this kind of technology. Russia for example has a whole slew of autonomous vehicles already that they're testing. The difference is that most of theirs are armed. Russia doesn't Suffer from the same ethical dilemmas the United States does because they really don't care who they kill with their weapons. And China will make anything for anybody As long as there's money involved. The intro to my show has a couple of clips from drone footage that was filmed by ISIS During the battle of Mosul. . Isis employed off the shelf drone technology to killMore than 150 Iraqi troops Just by Attaching Conventional grenades to Drones and then flying them over Concentrations of Iraqi troops. they also used drones to vector inS uicide car bombs on their targets. So Developing the technology to counter These kinds of unmanned and autonomous vehicles is just as important as developing the vehicles themselves. And the military is doing that as well.
Well I hope you enjoyed today's show I am heading Out to the Darien Jungle here in Panama to do some reporting AndSo I should have some interesting Reports for you Later on this week.Thanks for being a part of the hot zone I'm chuck Holton we'll see you tomorrow.
Opioids - they are killing America. WE'll explore why on this episode of the hot zone.
Hi folks. Nearly 800,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses since 1999. Last year the level was six times what it was in '99 and more than 130 people are dying every day.
It started out with prescription pills, then moved to heroin and lately the amound of synthetic drugs like fentanyl is killing more people than ever. It's a nationwide epidemic that is affecting more than 2 million Americans per year.
The demand for these drugs is a boon for Narcotraffickers, who are shipping more Fentanyl and Heroin into the United States now than ever before - they are taking advantage of the chaos on the US Southern border to drive convoys full of this poison into our country every day. Last year alone, US Customs and Border Protection siezed enough fentanyl to kill the entire population of the United States. AND THAT'S JUST THE STUFF THEY CAUGHT.
The economic impact of the crisis is north of 500 billion dollars, enough to build the border wall thirty times over. So this is much more than a National security crisis. It's more than a law enforcement issue. It's a cultural crisis that is rotting America from the inside out.
Southern west virginia is one of the hardest hit areas of the country. I've done a good bit of reporting on this over the years, and I'm going to show you some of that reporting today because it is every bit as relevant now as it was five years ago. Only now the problem is even more pervasive and more urgent.
[frontlines west virginia]
I'd encourage you to go watch more of the Frontlines episodes we made over the past six years. It's really well produced, and the NRA doesn't get enough credit for how much it tries to make America safer, even just by getting the word out.
Same with this podcast. Please share it with your friends. If you subscribe over at Patreon.com/hotzone, you'll get access to a bunch of special features like free copies of my books, access to some of the paid content I've produced on church security, and more.
Okay, last year I went and interviewed my friend Leon Brush. He's got some real skin in this game, and is working very hard to drag addicts out of that life and give them hope. Take a look.
Well that's all the time we have today folks. I'm in the jungles of Panama as you watch this, and I'll be bringing you some amazing content out of there later this week. So stick around. Please like and share this podcast with your friends. It will really help us as we close in on our 100th episode this Friday! That will be a great episode for sure. So thanks for being a part of the Hot Zone.
Episode 96 - Fake News on the Border, and an Easter Massacre
I'm sure you've seen the headlines over the weekend about the group of civilians who is "detaining people at gunpoint" on the US Southern border.
I interviewed their public affairs guy when I was down there a few weeks ago. They are not giving interviews now after what's happened. I can tell you most of what the media is reporting about this story is misleading or false.
1. This group is not technically detaining people on the border. They are documenting the illegal crossers in a remote stretch of border where there is no wall, and these illegal crossers WANT to get picked up by the border patrol. The UCP's direct them to sit and wait, then wait with them, and treat any urgent medical needs if possible.
2. They are not "holding migrants at gunpoint." The UCPs carry guns for self protection, but do not (at least from what I saw and have seen in their videos) meet the legal definition of brandishing those weapons. They aren't threatening the migrants, they are documenting what's going on and calling border patrol when they see something.
3. I met their commander, Larry Mitchell Hopkins. When I was there he was caring for their campsite, and was not armed. If he is a felon and at some point was carrying a weapon, he was wrong and should be arrested.
4. CNN shows a video that purports to show Jim Benvie ( the guy I interviewed) claiming to be a border patrol agent. The editing is a little sketchy, and he is not on camera saying it, so he could have been pointing to the border patrol nearby when he said "US Border Patrol". You can't tell from the video. If he's impersonating border patrol, he's wrong.
5. The governor who called for the investigation into this group is the same governor who pulled actual US troops from the border of her state on 5 Feb, stating that there is no crisis. The work the UCPs are doing puts the lie to her assertion.
Episode 95 - Risky Missions, and Does Charity Start at Home?
ON this episode of the podcast, more church fire problems, Missionaries arrested in Laos - with another exclusive interview you will only see here, on the Hot Zone.
Hi folks. There's a lot to get to today so let's get to it.
Yesterday I touched on the untimely death of a Christian Missionary in Paraguay, named Wayne Goddard. Now Paraguay is normally not associated with heightened travel risk - most places in the country are very safe. But Wayne wasn't working in most places. The place he lived was near what they call the "tri border region." The State Department warns that Transnational criminal organizations facilitate the illicit trafficking of arms, narcotics, and other goods in Paraguay, particularly along Paraguay’s eastern border with Brazil, including the Tri-Border Area of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Coupled with the lack of sufficient police enforcement, the involvement of these organizations heightens violent crime in these areas.
We've been doing a lot of reporting this week on the risks being faced by missionaries around the globe. And today I have two special guests to talk about that subject further. First, let's talk to Terry Reed.
Great interviews! Now, let's move on to other news.
The investigation is just beginning into what caused the fire at Notre Dame this week, but already some whack job decided it'd be a good idea to burn down one of the United States' best known old cathedrals, Saint Patricks in New York City. This joker apparently tried to enter the church with four gallons of gasoline, two cans of lighter fluid and lighters. Wow. What's interesting is that the cops already had an eye on this guy, so they were able to stop him quickly.
So the cleanup is already underway at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, only days after that world-famous church went up in flames and well over half a billion euros has been pledged to rebuild it. some people are actually criticizing the fact that people are donating money for that, pointing out that there are hungry people around the world who could use that money.
Okay, let me explain something here.
First of all, Notre Dame may in fact be covered by insurance if the true cause of the fire turns out to be an accident. IN which case, the donated funds certainly can go to feed hungry people.
Also, Charity is not a zero-sum game. Giving doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. In fact, generosity begets more generosity in three ways. first, Giving feels good, and the more you give, the more likely you will want to continue giving. Second, When you give to charity, it motivates others to do the same, and third, people who receive true charity (as opposed to "entitlements" from the government) Tend to want to pass those good vibes along out of gratitude for what they've received.
On yesterday's podcast I talked about Catherine, a single mother of two we helped start a business so she could provide for her children without leaving them unsupervised on the street all day. And I suddenly got this flood of hate on Facebook by people insisting we should only help needy people inside the United States. I mean, how dare we give to keep a couple of little dirty brown kids from starving? the nerve! Some of the comments were incredibly instructive though about just how poor America's public school system must be. There were dozens of comments telling this woman, who is living in Colombia, over 2000 miles from the US, to "stay out of our country." Apparently these people think Colombia is somewhere near Phoenix or something. This guy shared my post with the message "help American's First" which was a common refrain. The whole "charity begins at home" refrain. Well charity might indeed begin at home, but it doesn't have to end there. And I'd love to take one of these people with me to Colombia, let them see the poverty there that is frankly worse than anything you can find in the United States, and I'd like to see this guy Joe look Catherine's starving children in their faces and tell them, "sorry kids, I only help people who look like me."
Then there was this gem: A Venezuelan soldier who defected from the military and is taking a stand for his country, at great peril to his own life, posted this message in Spanish: It says, "May God save the United States from the tragedy we are living through in my country."
The first response to his message? This warm-hearted American woman wrote: "This is America we speak English."
Classy. Just. Wow. So finally, to please the "We only help Americans" crowd, I put up this plea for Dr. Doug Burbella, who was shot delivering aid in Haiti last week. A few people stepped up. One was this man, my friend Imran Gilani, who is a Pakistani Muslim Asylum Seeker in the United States waiting for his Asylum hearing. Apparently Imran didn't get the memo that "we only help our own." In fact, he puts many Christians to shame.
There are about 130 million households in the United States, with a median income of over $56,000. Now since only Half of the US Population claims to be Christian, let's assume 65 million households actually followed the biblical mandate to tithe on their income. That means the average Christian home should be giving about a hundred bucks a week to the needy. That would come out to nearly 32 billion dollars per month being given to charity. To give you a sense of how much that is, the US government currently spends about 8.7 billion a month on feeding the poor in America. So we could feed all the hungry in the US so the US government didn't have to and still have more than 23 billion dollars left over.
My point is, there is more than enough to help our neighbors and even have a little left over to help others. In my experience, generous people tend to be generous to everyone, not just those they are closest to. So go ahead and help the people God puts in front of you, and if you want to take part in our mission to make the bad news around the world just a little bit better, then join me will you? Americans are the most generous people group on the planet. And we know that giving is more blessed than receiving. So let's be generous, shall we?
That's it for today's hot zone. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next week!
Episode 94 - Emergency in Yuma, IDF hits Hamas and Another Missionary Killed
On today's hot zone, Yuma Arizona declares a state of emergency on the US southern border.
An American missionary is murdered in Paraguay
and the Israel Defence Forces take it to Hamas. That's coming up.
Episode 93 - Notre Dame Burns and EXCLUSIVE interview with Haiti Attack Survivor
Today's podcast includes an astounding interview with Drew Pasler, who last week survived an Ambush in Haiti that almost claimed the life of an American doctor. Drew was driving the vehicle that was shot full of holes by the bandits! THIS exclusive interview will send chills up your spine! Don't miss it!
PLUS! some important context on the Notre Dame fire that's being ignored by the Mainstream Media!
Also, please give in support of Dr. Doug Burbella:
Episode 92 - Ambushed in Haiti - and How it's Venezuela's Fault
How Socialism isn't just ruining Venezuela - it's affecting the entire Western Hemisphere. Coming up on today's Podcast.
Hi folks, today I want to talk about how Venezuela's cancer is infecting many of the countries in Central and South America today. But before I get to that, let me just point out that yesterday was the six year anniversary of the Boston Marathon, when two young Chechen brothers set off homemade pressure cooker bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, wounding 264 people and killing three. With more than 100,000 foreigners every month cross our border illegally, many of whom are looking to claim asylum in our country, it's worth pointing out that both of the terrorists who perpetrated the attack in boston were migrants whose family had applied for and received asylum in the United States in 2002, who had received the full benefit of living in America to include receiving scholarships to attend the university of Massachusets at Dartmoth. From outward appearances, they were fully assimilated into US culture. Until they weren't, I guess.
Most people don't know the brothers were later implicated in a triple homicide that took place two years before the bombing in Boston. Few remember they were found to have been selling drugs. One died in the massive manhunt when he was run over by his brother trying to get away from police. The other was captured soon after hiding in a boat. He scrawled a message on the inside of that boat while he was hiding there, which admitted to the attack and claimed the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as justification. He also wrote, "When you attack one muslim, you attack ALL muslims." Which if you think about it, is a very problematic worldview shared by many of different affiliations throughout the world. Solidarity can be a very dangerous thing. If you believe so strongly in your "in group" that you will stand with them even if they are, say, cutting off the heads of people who belong to the same group, or committing genocide against other groups, or, say, burning down your own neighborhood to protest police brutality, then your worldview is self-contradictory if you hold it against people who, for example, say all muslims are terrorists. If SOME muslims are terrorists and you as a Muslim won't condemn them, then you can't say it's wrong when innocent Muslims die in the process of war against those same terrorists.
Don't misunderstand me: I'm very against killing noncombatants for any reason. All Muslims certainly are not terrorists, but many terrorists are muslims. It's neither racist nor islamophobic to point that out. If more Muslims were willing to condemn their fellow muslims who commit terror, instead of standing in solidarity with them, there'd be a lot less actual islamophobia and collateral damage in this world.
When a disturbed white guy who claims some form of Christianity shoots up a mosque, true Christians around the world immediately and forcefully condemn him. When he's killed in a hail of gunfire by police, we are grateful he's been stopped. We don't go on a tirade against the cops for killing "one of ours." Because we truly believe he is not one of ours. If some innocent bystanders get killed in the firefight, I'd probably put the blame for their deaths on the deranged lunatic who created the need for a police response, not on the police themselves. And I certainly am not going to burn down and loot the local seven eleven in protest. That's just stupid. And this is why I've spoken out against ISIS, against black lives matter, against ANTIFA and anyone else who destroys the work of others' hands just to "stick it to the man" or whatever. It's not racism. It's not bigotry. It's that I suffer from a severe aversion to stupid behavior.
Speaking of Stupid behavior, let's move on to Haiti.
Back in July of last year, The government of Haiti suddenly announced that there will be a 50% Hike in the price of gasoline. Haitians went ballistic and started burning tires, Looting stores, and Generally setting their whole country on fire. Protests have continued since then, Many of them becoming very violent And at least 70 protesters have been killed In the process. So why would a government suddenly hike the price of gasoline by 50%? Well, let's go back To Venezuela. Back in 2005 Hugo Chavez Began a program called PetroCaribe, Where it tried to extend its influence around the Caribbean and Latin America by offering supercheap prices for gasoline to those countries. He offered to sell his neighbors Venezuelan crude for anywhere from 5% to 50% of its actual price. With the remaining Difference between The sale price and The Actual price Converted into a super low cost loan Of 1% Interest payable over 25 years. In this way, Hugo Chavez attempted to make most of his neighbors beholden to Venezuela So that He could influence Their Choices On the international stage To Venezuela's benefit. This worked pretty well for a while, And especially in Haiti, Where the government Sold Gasoline to its citizens At a higher rate Than it was Receiving from Venezuela And pocketed the difference. Supposedly that difference was going to go toward infrastructure projects, schools, hospitals and the like to help Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake Which Essentially Destroyed their entire economy. Instead, And to nobody's surprise, Haitian politicians ended up putting most of that money in their pockets Along with A large chunk of the 7 1/2 billion dollars That has been given by private donors, as well as almost 3 billion more given by the US government to help Haiti recover from the earthquake.
But as Venezuela's economy Has spiraled out of control, They are no longer able to ship cheap oil To their neighbors. And this is causing instability Around Latin America in places like Nicaragua and Honduras and especially in Haiti. Now that the golden goose has stopped laying eggs, the Haitian politicians Are having to face the music because They can no longer afford To sell gasoline at a discount To their own people. And the people are realizing that the infrastructure they were promised will never get built. And they're mad. Very mad. Add to that the problem of inflation of the Haitian currency, which has yet to reach the mind-boggling levels we are seeing in Venezuela, but nonetheless is causing real hardship in Haiti, which was already the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
Venezuela's implosion is also causing political unrest in Nicaragua, where the government is having to cut back on social programs now that the money is drying up along with the oil from the Maduro regime. Honduras' problems have been exacerbated by what's happening in Venezuela. Brazil and Colombia are feeling a massive impact of over two million Venezuelan's fleeing into their countries. and even Panama is suffering with nearly a hundred thousand venezuelan refugees.
When one house in the neighborhood falls into disrepair, the guy who lives there throws his trash all over, keeps a pack of mangy dogs, throws wild parties and gets raided by the police once a week, his bad choices inflict real damage on everyone else in the neighborhood. A person's good or bad choices don't just affect that person, or their family. they affect everyone around him. And this is why Venezuela is such a problem. As that country becomes a failed state, and I truly believe it is, it is pulling lots of other countries around it down as well.
Haiti has been a mess all my life. My first trip there was in 1986. The world community has pumped more than a billion dollars a year in aid into that country on average, every year since 1986. I was there the year before the earthquake and it was worse than 1986. And the country is ten times worse today than it was back then. 25% of their entire GDP comes from external remittances, which means Haiti would completely implode if it weren't for the 20% of their citizens who live outside of Haiti. There are a lot of contributing factors to Haiti's woes, but this most recent crisis is threatening to explode into a level of violence we haven't seen there for a long time. I am hearing from missionary friends there that they are evacuating the country - I've never seen that in the past 30 years. An American doctor on a mission trip was shot in Haiti last week and nearly killed. Take a look at this:
Doctor Burbella was on a short term mission trip to Haiti's north side when his convoy was stopped by a group of approximately 150 men with rifles. They opened fire on the convoy and the doctor was hit three times. The bandits robbed everyone in the convoy and Dr. Burbella played dead in the back seat. He really thought he'd bleed to death, so he recorded a final message for his family. But as he said, it wasn't his time yet. He was life-flighted back to florida and fifteen hours later was in surgery. He is apparently going to survive this attack. When he was shot he was delivering over $20,000 worth of computers to a school in northern Haiti. He's been giving of himself and loving haitians for decades - and this is how they repay him. But love must win. Haitians need to see the power of love, forgiveness and ultimately redemption which has been freely offered to us all, and which motivates people like Doug Burbella.
Well Doctor Burbella isn't out of the woods yet. He's got some very hefty medical bills from this ordeal and his family has started a gofundme account to help offset the costs. So here's your chance to reach into the news today. Go donate ten bucks, or a hundred, to the gofundme and together let's stand with those who put their lives on the line to help people in need. I'm going to do it. I encourage you to as well.
I'm hoping to have Dr. Burbella on the show sometime soon to tell us about his ordeal. In the meantime, i hope you'll join me in trying to reach into these bad news stories and look for ways to make the news better. We're leveraging social media and technology to change the way you interact with the news, to give you more power to actually make a difference with this short time we're all given on this earth.
Thanks for being a part of it. You can support this podcast by going to patreon.com/hotzone, or at least like and share the podcast with your friends. Your reviews really help our rankings. So get to it! I'm chuck Holton, and we'll see you tomorrow.
Help Doctor Doug Burbella:
Today's episode includes an interview with Bob Hamer, who worked as an undercover FBI agent and specialized in busting counterfeiters. We talk about the cost of Counterfeiting, the threat from China to our national security, and listen to some amazing stories Bob has from his years of service.
Today's episode features an interview with Ryan Boyette, a missionary to Sudan who explains the suffering of the Sudanese people and what's happening with his country right now...and how Venezuela might soon follow Sudan's lead.
Check out: https://www.ToMoveMountains.org
Episode 89 - Rwanda +25: What it's Like to Tell Your Son You're all Going to Die Tonight
"My anticipation was, if they come through that door they're going to do things to my family that I'm not going to want to live with for the rest of my life. So at that point I handed my son...a machete and I took another one and we waited for them...And I'll never forget telling my son, 'we're gonna...we may not make it through the night, but we're going to die protecting your mom and the girls."
One missionary's recollection of harrowing moments during his ministry in Africa - including being caught up in the genocide of nearly 1 million Rwandans which was going on right now, 25 years ago. We'll explore what it was like to see that, how it affected this family and search for a higher purpose in the midst of the carnage.
Shayne and Tari Russell have been missionaries for most of their lives, serving in many countries across Africa.
Frontlines (PBS) documentary on the Rwandan Genocide.
Episode 88 - Tragedy in Afghanistan and What's Going on in Libya?
A tragic day in Afghanistan, US troops Leaving Libya, and wait...we had troops in Libya? We'll break it down on today's hot zone.
Hi folks. Chuck Holton here. People sometimes ask me why I choose to spend my time in so many of the worst places in the world. And it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't had a chance to experience it. I think the best answer I can give is that it gives me a great sense of meaning and wonder. Meaning because I feel like it's my job to shine light on the dark places, and wonder because I get a deeper understanding of the history that we are living through, a front row seat to history. Plus I love the creative process. I think if you took away my camera and sent me off to these places, I wouldn't be able to stand it because the act of documenting the world around me is a deeply creative one. So I guess it comes down to creation, redemption and a higher purpose.
Well I want to bring you along with me. I want to let you see not only the finished product, but the process as well. That's why I started the Hot Zone. I'm excited about the way the podcast is growing...but it would really mean a lot to me if you could take just a few seconds and like and share it with your friends. For example: we have a little over 700 followers on our facebook page - my goal is to get it to 1000 before our 100th episode. Will you help me?
Also, if you enjoy the helping others aspect - you will be glad to know I'm making arrangements for a medical mission project to the Darien Jungle here in Panama, where hundreds of migrants are showing up every day half dead from exhaustion and sickness. If you're interested in taking part - get in touch with me and let's see what we can do. One thing is you can go to patreon.com/hotzone and subscribe. Those of you who support the podcast there are really making a difference in the lives of people...and there's much more to come.
Okay, on to the news. A roadside bomb went off just outside bagram air base in northern Afghanistan on Monday, resulting in seven American casualties - three US troops died in the blast as well as one military contractor. three more troops were wounded. This makes seven so far this year, which puts us on pace to have more US deaths this year than last. That's a function of the Taliban stepping up attacks to try to assert their power in negotiations with the Afghan government.
The Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani recently laid out a four step plan to put an end to this conflict, which as you know has been going on for nearly two decades now. Some of his ideas are quite good - weaning the country off of the massive amount of money being spent there by governments like ours, and some are kind of pie in the sky - getting Pakistan and Iran to stop their meddling. Good luck with that.
IED's are terribly destructive devices, homemade usually, that have been responsible for the majority of the 2400 American deaths in that country during the war. I've been in three IED incidents myself - never hit directly, thank God, but let me tell you, it's really annoying when people you don't even know try to blow you up. I mean, how rude!
So imagine being a young Marine going out on patrol every day, and living with the fact that just about every step you take outside the wire could be your last. You might think these guys would start to harbor a deep and abiding hatred for the Afghan people. But when you ask them what keeps them going, I've found the tend to talk more about the people they care about back home. Listen to this short interview I did with a Marine Lance Corporal on patrol in Helmand province over ten years ago.
[Burt Mitchell piece]
That was my first trip to Afghanistan, alongside Oliver North. During that same trip, North's convoy was hit with an IED and his cameraman, Chris Jackson was in the vehicle that got hit. I was only about a kilometer away and showed up within minutes with the quick reaction force. Two marines were injured - one, Courtney Rausch lost his foot. I filmed the aftermath as the ammunition in the humvee cooked off and melted down. I had been in Afghanistan at that point for three days. There would be two more incidents like that - fortunately with no more injuries - during that same trip.
My point in bringing this up is that the troops putting their lives on the line in service to our country are facing their mortality on a daily basis, but they don't do it out of hatred for the enemy. They do it out of love for their country and our way of life. It's not about who is across from them on the battlefield, it's about who is behind them.
Being a warrior means cultivating that kind of love. One has to be able to turn on the tap of hate when fighting for your life, but the hate has to stay subservient to the love for your tribe, your country, your family. If ever the hate overcomes that love, you are no longer a warrior. You are a savage. That's just my opinion.
I want to show you a couple more packages we sent back from Afghanistan when I was working with Oliver North as his cameraman. The thing that strikes me looking at these ten years later is that we are still trying to accomplish the goals we were trying to accomplish back then. It turns out getting the Afghan army up to speed where it can protect it's own country has been a much bigger job than we thought.
[OLN foot patrol]
The taliban wants to bring Sharia law to all of Afghanistan. I think in light of how tenacious and pervasive their ideas have been, the US should have simply defeated them the first time in 2001 and then left the country altogether - offering advice if the new government asked for it but otherwise leaving them to their own devices with the promise that they could remake their country any way they saw fit, but the moment they posed a threat to the US, we'd come back and wipe the slate clean once again. Think of the blood and treasure we'd have saved doing it that way.
Don't get me wrong. We've done a lot of good for a lot of people in 18 years in Afghanistan. And that counts for something. Here's a package from an embed we did with a medevac unit, very much like the one my son Mason is serving in today.
The bottom line is this. Whether or not you and I think it has been worth it, the troops who keep going back say it is.
I guess it's hard to argue with that.
Okay. Let's take a look at Libya. If you recall back in 2011 the Obama administration declared that Libyan Dictator Moammar Khaddafi was an illegitimate leader and needed to go. We embarked on a bombing campaign to speed up the process, and that contributed to the overthrow of Khadaffi.
Just as an aside, I wonder how many politicians in the US were all for Obama's use of military force to depose a dictator and are now dead set against Trump taking any action that would get rid of Nicolas Maduro. Might be worth looking into.
Anyway, the second and third order effects of our intervention in Libya have been overwhelmingly negative. First of all, Libya had huge stockpiles of weapons and munitions, which when Khadaffi fell, got looted by very bad people in the area, and much of it ended up in the hands of ISIS jihadists, enabling them to wreak havoc all over the region. The rest went to a bunch of warlords who are now fighting amongst themselves to control Libya.
If you didn't realize we HAD troops in Libya, you're not alone. The truth is we've had a small contingent of US forces stationed there for a couple of years. Special ops guys mostly who have been "assisting" local forces in fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda in the region. We've dropped lots of ordnance on people who needed it over there, but now we've pulled those troops out. Why? Well, all of a sudden a powerful leader has marshalled his forces in the eastern part of the country and decided to say "mine" to the rest of Libya, including it's vast oil reserves.
See the UN has been backing the sorta weak government in Tripoli, called the GNA or Government of National Accord. But a powerful general last week launched a surprise offensive to take over control, and that has the UN running around with it's hair on fire. They are evacuating their "peacekeeping force" which almost never does any good anyway, and the US decided to sorta get out of the way and see how this thing plays out.
This whole mess is yet another consequence of Barack Obama's feckless and limp-wristed foreign policy. Khaddafi was a bad guy, but the Obama administration's naive support for the "Arab spring" uprisings have led to literally hundreds of thousands of deaths across the middle east, supported the rise of ISIS and generally made the world a more dangerous place for Americans and everybody else.
History won’t be kind to the decisions made by the Obama administration in the Middle East. I think the lesson is that we as a nation have to be very cautious about who we support, and even more so who we give weapons to in conflicts around the world. My opinion is that if it’s worth doing, we should have a policy that we will do it ourselves. If Khaddafi needs to go that badly, we should be willing to put our own sons and daughters in harm’s way to depose him. Whenever we support other factions because we’re not willing to do the dirty work ourselves, that might be a good sign that maybe it’s not worth doing at all.
Just my opinion there. Anyway. That’s all I’ve got for today. Thanks for being with me on this journey. We’ve got lots of great content for you in the days ahead.
I’m Chuck Holton, and this has been the Hot Zone.